For the first time in the 2014 season, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series takes to the twists and turns of road course racing at Sonoma Raceway in California, an event that is surprisingly bringing out just one “road course ringer,” Boris Said. The Toyota/SaveMart 350 goes green on Sunday, June 22.
NASCAR’s ranks, however, have some road course aces of its own, beginning with Jeff Gordon, who has nine wins at Sonoma and Watkins Glen International combined. In 21 Sonoma races, Gordon has picked up five wins and 17 top 10 finishes, with an average finish of 8.2 – one of his best tracks. Gordon last won at Sonoma in 2006, but he has managed top 10 finishes in every race since then.
Ranking just behind Gordon as a NASCAR road course standout is Tony Stewart, who has seven combined wins on the two road courses on the schedule. While The Glen is his better track, Stewart’s Sonoma totals are impressive, with two wins and nine top 10 finishes in 15 races. His last win came in 2005, but he has two runner-up finishes (2009 and 2012) since.
NASCAR’s newest road course ace is Marcos Ambrose, whose two career Cup Series wins came at The Glen. At Sonoma, Ambrose has five top 10 finishes in six starts, with his lone problem coming in his first visit to the track, a 42nd-place finish after transmission problems.
Two drivers who do not get enough credit for their increasing road course prowess are Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. While Keselowski has yet to win on a road course, he finished 10th at Sonoma in 2011 and has three straight runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen. Busch has wins at both tracks (one at Sonoma and two at The Glen) and a combined 10 top 10 finishes in 18 races at the two tracks. Like Stewart, The Glen is a better track for Busch, but when he won at Sonoma in 2008, he improved from a 30th-place qualifying effort.
As mentioned earlier, Said is the lone “ringer” on the entry list for Sonoma. Of his eight top 10 finishes in Cup Series competition, seven of them have come at the road courses. While Said earned his career-best finish at Watkins Glen (third in 2005), he has five top 10 finishes in 14 starts at Sonoma, including back-to-back sixth-place finishes in 2003 and 2004.
The Sprint Cup Series qualifies for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 on Saturday, June 21 at 10:40 a.m. PT, with the green flag dropping on the main event Sunday at noon PT.
Source: “Statistical Advance: Analyzing the Toyota/SaveMart 350,” NASCAR Media, June 16, 2014