PACE PICKED UP

Pit Lane Crowd Scene

Sunday breaks sunny and the Sonoma Raceway is filling up with fans for the 28th Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. The big news is that Toyota has renewed its race co-title sponsorship in a multi-year agreement. Toyota has been co-title sponsor for the past ten years, and is also the official vehicle sponsor of the track. Toyota will also continue as title sponsor of the track’s annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 preview show on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. The 30-minute special, which airs during the month of June, has been nominated for a sports Emmy award in past years.

The track has several entrances, which help control the traffic flow. I came through the Lakeville Road gate Saturday morning, a new experience for me. I was in awe at how much property the track actually owns, in between land parcels owned by the Sonoma Trust. I also was amazed at how many motorhomes and RV’s were seen along the way – not all visible from the paddock/pits. There were a lot of folks. Little villages with their allegiance flags waving in the breeze.

The track and its Traffic Manager work closely with the California Highway Patrol to control/lessen the traffic disruption for what is one of the Bay Area’s largest single-day sporting event. Thirty CHP and Cal Trans staff work the event. Up to 85 percent of the traffic by the circuit is non-race related (i.e. wine country interested.) Many informational directional signs are posted to direct towards those non-race fans who are looking for alternative routes throughout the area, the goal being to keep them away from the race track. Other posted directional signs point out the various entrance gates for fans, depending on their ticket/credential situation. Two sold-out Fun Trains come from the Sacramento area stopping right at the track’s front gate, the arrival of which is shown on the track’s live TV screens. Twenty-nine SportsFan Express shuttle busses bring traffic from around the Bay Area. Free parking on the many hills inside the track fill up, with shuttles running the fans back and forth to the paddock or their viewing areas. Strict monitoring of the DMV Handicap Placards allows those users to have their special parking.

It’s summer in California which means that the beautiful lush green from the winter’s less than hoped-for El Nino has turned to brown. To do its part towards fire mitigation and suppression, the track has its Wooly Weeders, a flock of more than 300 sheep which live on the property keeping everything nibbled to the nub. Additionally, for rodent control the track works with local owl agencies to provide owl nesting boxes throughout the property. Rats have ever-growing teeth in search of things upon which to gnaw, including wires and cords. The owls help the many garages and shops on site which don’t really like nibblers in their buildings and equipment yards.

Trylon-Bottom 20

Trylon- Top 20

The track has installed a new four-sided LED Trylon above Turn One, replacing the former installation. This gives more than 5,000 of square-foot LED screens showing track position of the race cars. The leaderboard display alternates between the top twenty race car positions and the bottom 20. Also new is the 84×12 Panasonic LED screen on the three-story Drag Tower opposite the John Cardinale Media Center and the second of the two Pit Lanes. This also gives the leaderboard information, as well as the laps completed and time remaining.

Sunday’s Race Day Schedule calls for a variety of fan-oriented activities. There are special tours and access events for specially credentialed fans. There is a PG&E Military STEM Job Fair, Stunt Plane Performance and the annual twenty-five minute Patriots Jet Demonstration Team Air Show, as well as a pre-race Concert performed by Jackson Michelson. There are the usual Ceremonial Introductions, Driver Introduction and it’s always fun to gauge which driver gets the biggest reaction, positive or negative. That is followed by the Driver track tour as part of the NASCAR pre-race ceremonies. Not to mention the Skydivers Jump.

After the race, the track is bringing back its popular track walk, which has two-fold consequences. It means fun for the fans who get to walk/see the track and have a pseudo-scavenger hunt for special lug nuts around the track redeemable for prizes; and it helps ease the flow of post-race traffic.

The weather will be in the low nineties and hopefully the typical afternoon breeze will kick in.

Let’s Go Racing!

NASCAR Paddock

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