Three days after the Summer Soltice, sunny and warm California weather greeted the NASCAR folks Friday at Sonoma Raceway for the first of two road course races of the 2016 season. A light breeze kept it comfortable as the crews set up and readied their cars for the morning practice.
Two NASCAR series are on schedule this weekend – the premiere Sprint Cup Series with 41 cars entered for the 40-car field, and 31 car field for the K&N Pro Series, West.
Perhaps it was the beautiful weather. The pace seemed less rushed than usual as the teams prepared the cars for the obligatory scrutineering process, which involves lots of checks and measuring. Cars were being prepped in the garage stalls, pushed through various lines, and generally detailed for the first of two Friday practice sessions. Both series qualify Saturday morning.
Down at the Sunoco pumps, the cars are fueled by Sunoco gas men appropriately garbed in fire-resistance suits covered by a fuel-repellant apron, and standing on pig-mat, which absorbs any overflow. The pumps are grounded from the pump through to the truck and deep into the ground tanks.
Although there are no Rookies in the Cup field, one driver will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Dylan Lupton from nearby Elk Grove CA will drive No.93 Bell Bros Plumbing, Heat & Air Toyota for BK Racing.
This year’s Sonoma race appears to have but one so-called ‘road race ringer.’ That’s the slang for a road racer brought in for the non-oval track races. This time it’s open-wheel racer with stock car chops, Patrick Carpentier from Quebec, Canada. He will be driving No.32 Can Am Ford. Mostly retired, the affable French-Canadian occasionally comes out to play; and the wine country stop is the first of two for him this year. G0 FAS Racing also hired Carpentier for the Brickyard 400 Cup race. Both circuits are familiar to him. He ran NASCAR with Ray Evernham for several years after winding down his road racing.
Spotting at Sonoma Raceway is crucial. All teams have at least one spotter – up above the RV’s on the hillside above Turns Two-Three. Some teams also have a second spotter on top of the three-story drag tower.
Fox Sports has set up one of its TV camera crews atop the hauler of Kasey Kahne/No.5 Great Clips Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. This is the last NASCAR Cup broadcast for the network, before the mid-season switch to NBC. This weekend marks the end of the Jeff Gordon’s debut season in the TV Broadcast Booth. He will be joined by Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds.
Sonoma is a ten-turn, 1.99-mile elevated road course. The highest point is 174 feet in Turn 3A, with Turn 10 being the lowest at 14 feet. a change of 160 feet each lap. The Toyota/Save Mart 350 race will run 110 laps, which equates to 350 kilometers/218.9-miles.