It’s bright and sunny at Sonoma Raceway Sunday for the one and done Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race. The breeze tempered the heat which is forecast to reach low eighties. The sold-out crowd of fans are out and about, and the Cardboard Cutouts are already enjoying their 15 minutes of fame in the main Grandstands H, I & J overlooking the pits. Do you recognize anyone?
The crews for the 37 Cup cars are busy putting their respective car through their pace. There are four NASCAR tech stations the cars must visit.Then they line up in Pit Lane. For the sharp-eyed who noticed that the Cup war wagons were on site Saturday morning along the Pit Lane fence, while the Cup haulers didn’t start their slow, graceful conga line into the Cup garage area at 7pm Saturday night – there is an answer. A firm called Champion hauls and installs these items as well as garage setups from race to race independent of the team haulers. After each race they collect the equipment and transports to next event.
Kyle Larson will start on pole today in No.5 Hendrick Chevrolet, with Chase Elliot next to him on the front row in No.9 NAPA Chevrolet. Cup points leader, Denny Hamlin will start fourth in the FedEx Toyota, next to William Byron in No.24 Axalta Chevrolet. There are 17 Chevrolets, 15 Fords and five Toyotas. All will start the race.
Sunday’s race will be 90 lap/226.8 miles. The three stages will be 20 / 40 / 90, with a Competition Caution on Lap 10. The estimated time of the race is 2.42.09, and the race will be broadcast on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Pit Road speed is 40 mph and Caution Car speed is 45 mph. Let’s hope they don’t have to be admonished abut overdriving the yellow flags as was the cast with F1 this morning in Baku.
In the Historic Trans-Am race, it was the usual- lots of fast loud ground-pounding cars chasing each other, bobbing and weaving, passing and repassing. The two leading cars , Jim Hague in No.16 1970 yellow Mustang driven originally by Peter Greg, and Ken Epsman in his red/white/blue 1972 Javelin originally raced by Roy Woods. They swapped the lead nearly every lap. Epsman said later he hoped NASCAR was watching. AT the photo finish, no one knew who won. The Series doesn’t use transponders, didn’t know where was the timing light, and frankly didn’t care as they were just having fun. Afterwards Epsman was giving fans photo ops inside the yellow Mustang. The series is fan-friendly. Their next stop are the two vintage Reunion races in Monterey in August and then on to Road America.
Kyle Shanahan, Head Coach for the San Francisco 49’ers, is the Grand Marshal this weekend. He met with media and said he’s been practicing “those four words.” He’s a bit nervous, as he doesn’t feel he has a good speaking voice. He’s used to talking and giving commands behind a clipboard on the field. He joked that no one could live up to Kevin James. Shanahan was really stoked to see all the NASCAR fans, as he’s “tired of cardboard cutouts.”
Another guest celebrity Sunday was Guy Fieri, renown Chef. He’s driving the Pace Car. He had a claque of foodies following him around.
Sonoma Raceway announced today that it’s 30-year partnership with Save Mart will have another multi-year extension. The 2022 schedule has yet to be released, but track officials expect their date to be early to mid June, as usual. Executive Vice President and General Manager, Jill Gregory, said she expects next year’s race will be fully back to normal with capacity crowds. She said this NASCAR race is the last race under the current enforceable protocols. After this, there will be new rules.