SALUDOS SAUREZ!

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez’s NASCAR Cup Series victory Sunday afternoon ticked off a lot of boxes on a few lists, racing #99 Onx Homes/Renu Chevrolet. It was his very first Cup win (in 195 starts,) he is the first driver from Mexico to win a Cup race, he is the fifth driver not from the United States to win in the Cup Series, he is the fourth first-time winner this season in the Cup Series, the 12th different winner this season, and so it goes. Suarez started eighth and led twice for 47 laps, more than any other of the six lap leaders. When he won, the cloud cover had finally dissipated, and he laid down a doughnut which added more clouds. Then he celebrated, as promised, by breaking a taco pinata (with his fist as he didn’t have the usual stick.)

Suarez is a product of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program, joining it in 2013. He credits it with starting his career.

Justin Marks

Justin Marks

This was the third victory this season for team owner Justin Marks, who has ties to the Bay Area. His other driver, Ross Chastain, won the road race at Circuit of the Americas and the oval at Talladega earlier this season in #1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet. This is a new team – Trackhouse Racing and Suarez’s crew chief is Travis Steven Mack.

Travis Mack

Travis Mack

Chris Buescher gave it his all, running hard in #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford but finished second after starting third. This is his first race after being sidelined last race from COVID. “What a way to return and come back to the race track, but I didn’t get the job done there at the end. I feel like we should have had the win and I didn’t get it. We were close, just needed more. I needed to make it happen on that restart and I didn’t.”

Third was Michael McDowell in the bright yellow #34 Love’s Travel Stop Ford, his best finish of ten at Sonoma. He ran hard all race, in second place for awhile. He’s stacking up the top ten finishes this year, the most in any year of his career. The finish moved him into the top 20 for points. Working with McDowell this weekend was local racer-sports car team owner Steve Cameron. “You have to run second, third, fourth, and fifth consistently to put yourself in a position to win a race and we were close today. We just needed a little more on the front end to challenge.”

Kevin Harvick

Fourth was Kevin Harvick in #4 GEARWRENCH Ford. He got stage points in the second stage, and is 12 in the standings. Harvick wasn’t in Saturday’s playful mood after the race. “We had our minimum of once-a-week catastrophic failure on pit road and got back as far forward as we could, as usual. It is what it is, I guess. We didn’t finish where we should have.”

Austin CindricFifth was Austin Cindric, who was the top Rookie, in #2 America’s Tire Ford. “I appreciate Jeremy (Bullins) and the Discount Tire team for believing in me with flipping the stages like we did when we probably could have taken a stage win and a bunch of stage points. We made a lot of adjustments and some bold decisions honestly, overnight.”

AJ Allmendinger

Two drivers, who are local and could be characterized as road-race ringers, had up and down days. AJ Allmendinger drove #16 Goldfish Casino Slots Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing. He qualified 16th but had to start from the rear due to unapproved adjustments. He worked his way through the field but had a spin and had to work back again. He finished 19th.

Chase & Joey Hand & Kent Stacey

Chase & Joey Hand with Kent Stacy

Joey Hand drove #15 Built Ford Proud Ford – with the car painted Ford Blue with signatures all over the hood of those who worked on the car. So instead of Hand’s name over the door, it was the crew chief’s name in that spot. Hand qualified 17th and finished 20th, his best finish in three Cup stars for Rick Ware Racing. Another local driver, Kent Stacey, was on hand to work with him.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson had the pole in #5 HendrickCars.com and led the first 26 laps and was the Stage 1 winner. True to his observation Saturday that no stage winner has won at Sonoma, Larson had pit stop strategy issues putting him back in the pack to work his way forward. Then in stage three, near the end of the race, after a pit stop, he lost his right front wheel and limped back to the pits for remedy. This will cost him more than a good finish – his crew chief and crew face penalties. Larson finished fifteenth, but he maintains seventh position in the standings.

Chase Elliott

Points leader Chase Elliott also had an up and down day in #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. He started second but fell back. In stage 2, he led 26 laps, but in the last stage, he had to back up during pit stop to catch the loose wheel, and then his nose was out of the box which was a penalty. He finished eighth but didn’t lose his points lead, now 16 points ahead of Ross Chastain

Bubba Wallace

Bubba Wallace had the worst day. His #23 DoorDash Toyota flamed out on Lap 9 and he retired. He was unhurt.

All cars passed through technical inspection and there were no issues.

Next week NASCAR is off and Suarez leaves Monday for a previously-planned visit to Mexico to visit his family, while his girlfriend, Ms. Piquet, will be going to Brazil to visit with her family, including her father, former F1 driver, Nelson Piquet.

Suarez's doughnut cloud

TALE OF TWO KYLES

Kyle & Audrey Larson

Kyle & Audrey Larson

Kyle Larson, driving #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, has the Sonoma Raceway pole for Sundays NASCAR Cup Series race …. again. This makes his fifth consecutive pole position* for the Northern California native who calls Sonoma his home track. Never one for over-enthusiasm, his main reaction was surprise as he didn’t feel he was that good, saying the other track configuration suits him better. When asked about his race strategy, he said he’d discuss it with his crew chief tomorrow.

Starting second on the front row with Larson will be his teammate, Chase Elliott in No.9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. Third through fifth are Chris Buescher #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, Michael McDowell #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, and Tyler Reddick #8 Lenovo Chevrolet.

Qualifying was done in two parts – A & B. AJ Allmendinger, making a road racing appearance in the Cup Series, drove #16 Goldfish Casino Slots Chevrolet to the top slot in Practice A. He’s fresh off his road-racing victory last weekend in the rain-soaked Xfinity Series race in Portland. Second thru fifth in Practice A were Buescher, Kevin Harvick #4 GEARWRENCH Ford, William Byron #24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, and Bubba Wallace #23 DoorDash Toyota. In Practice B, it was Larson who led the pack, followed by Elliott, Chastain, Kyle Bush #18 M7M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota and Daniel Suarez #99 Onx Homes Chevrolet. Suarez will doing double duty Saturday as he will be getting to the pole sitting #42 Chevrolet after it’s started by driver Carson Hocevar.

Kevin Harvick

Harvick was playful in his bull-pen chats, deftly deflecting most questions, especially when it related to previous misbehavior of other drivers.

After the two sessions, there was a third session, for the top five from each group, going for the pole. Larson prevailed with a lap of 92.110 mph.

*Technically Larson got the 2021 pole position by metrics as there was no practice or qualifying, due to Covid.

Further on down the roster, the Busch brothers occupy row 6 – for the fifth time, said Kyle.

Thirty-five of the thirty-six drivers were on course. Cody Ware #51 Nurtec ODT Ford did not go on track, after penalties for ‘excessive naughtiness.” He failed inspection numerous times. He can start the race at the rear, but then will have to pit for a pass-through penalty.

Kyle Busch

Saturday afternoon, close to 5pm when the wind was really howling, the Trucks had their race, and finished after 7 pm. It was won by Kyle Busch #51 yahoo! Toyota, who dominated. He led four times for 45 of the 75 laps, turned the fastest lap (according to the announcers,) and stacked up more stats. This is Kyle’s first road course Truck Series victory, his first Truck Series win at Sonoma, his first win this season, and his 62nd victory in the Truck Series. He’s won Truck Series races on 20 different tracks.

Zane Smith

Ross Chastain

Daniel Suarez

Left to right: Zane Smith, Ross Chastain, and Daniel Suarez

The Margin of Victory ahead of Zane Smith #38 Michael Roberts Construction Ford was 1.176 seconds. Third through fifth were Ty Majeski #66 Cincinnati Toyota, Ross Chastain #41 Worldwide Express Chevrolet and Chandler Smith #18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota. There were 10 lead changes among five drivers. They were Carson Hocevar (who dropped to rear from pole due to unapproved adjustments;) Chastain, Majeski, Grant Effinger #23 Champion Power Equipment, and Ben Rhodes #99 Tenda Toyota

Polesitter Carson Hocevar started the race and pitted on Lap 14 for driver change. Backup driver Daniel Suarez got in. This put him two laps behind, and coupled with his other pit stop, he drove hard to play catchup. He steadily worked his way through the pack, and finished sixth, earning valuable points for Hocevar, who maintained his eighth position in the points. Ben Rhodes kept his points lead.

Jack Wood #34 Cooks Collision Chevrolet was the top finishing Rookie, in 16th.

The race was punctuated by six cautions and a Red Flag, taking out 17 of the 75 laps. The first one was for the conclusion of Stage One, which was incident-free. The end of Stage Two was coupled with an incident in Turn 8 which involved two cars. Three incidents in the last Stage involved more cars, a car fire, and the Red Flag for wall repair after three cars collided in Turn 1. No one was hurt, but the track took a beating as did more than a few trucks. All drivers were evaluated and released from medical center. Five drivers had accidents, and three had mechanical woes. The average speed started out 89+ mph, and overall was 66.612 mph. All trucks passed inspection and there were no issues.

Twenty-eight of the 36 drivers were running at the end of the race, with 26 of them on the lead lap.

NASCAR is taking Father’s Day weekend off, so the next Truck Series race will be 18 June 2022 at Knoxville Raceway.

SONOMA SCORCH

Pole sitter Kyle Larson won Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race at Sonoma Race in dominating fashion. He swept all three stages, and led 57 of the 90 laps. He only fell behind after pit stops but wasted no time in catching up and pulling away in his No.5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. Each time Larsen pitted he fell back, and charged his way back up to the lead and stretched his gap. This was his first back-to-back race this season, his third victory this year, and his ninth career win. He now moves into second place for points with 617, behind Denny Hamlin who leads with 664. Larson’s teammate, Chase Elliot is in third place. Larsen, who hails from Elk Grove, CA first came to the track, then called Sears Point Raceway, at the age of five. He calls Sonoma his home track.

Elliott, who’s known as a good road racer, gave Larson a run for his money in the race, driving No.9 Napa Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr came in third, driving his No.19 Bass Pro Toyota. Fourth and fifth were Joey Logano in No.22 Autotrader Ford and Kyle Busch in No.18 Sport Clips Toyota.

Chase ElliottChase Elliott

There was a lot of good racing behind Larson in the first big pack, with passing and maneuvers, mostly clean. The Northern California racer said he’s been working on his restarts. One thing which has helped him this last week was the team hiring American road racer, Scott Speed to work with him. Larsen said it really helped, and he got better in outbreaking this weekend. He said he had to learn the track really quickly as there were some changes since he last raced here.

Kyle BuschKyle Busch

There were eight cautions for 18 laps, two coming in the last three laps, three within 18 laps of the finish. It seemed every time Larson got the lead and pulled away, another caution came to bunch of the field. Larson made some bold and daring passes when going for the lead after pit stops and was successful in fending off attempts to crowd or pass him in tight squeezes. The majority of problem-causing cautions came in Stage Three, involving multiple cars. Caution Six right after a Restart involved seven cars in Turn 11. William Byron went to the garage with severe body damage; Kevin Harvick pitted for removal of hood, fender and assorted parts – some of which were given to eager race fans hanging out by his pits. Corey LaJoie pitted for body work. Others were Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Erik Jones. Caution Seven involved a bobble by Michael McDowell, and three cars were caught out – Cody Ware, who was taken to the infield care center and released; Ryan Preece and Matt DeBenedetto. The last caution in Turn 4 involved Anthony Alfredo, Bell, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. The one incident in the first stage involved Ricky Stenhouse crashing in Turn One, bringing out the fork lift and assorted equipment.

DENNY HAMLIN

DENNY HAMLIN

Chase Briscoe, winner of Saturday’s ARCA race, was the Sunoco Rookie of the Race, driving No.14 Ford Performance School Ford. He started 25th and finished 17th, on the lead lap.

Other race stats: The race ran 3 hrs, 14 mins, 42 secs. There were thirteen lead changes among seven drivers: Kyle Larson 1-9; Denny Hamlin 10-11; Larson 12-21; Kurt Busch 22-27; William Byron 28-32; Larson 33-42; Kurt Busch 43-44; Chase Elliott 45-57; Larson 58-64; Joey Logano 65-66; Kyle Busch 67-68; Larson 69-72; Logano 73-75 and Larson 76-92. Thirty-three of the 37 starters finished the race, all on the lead lap. Two DNFs were accidents and two were mechanical. The average race speed varied from 70.430 mph to 89.755 mph.

Fox Sports broadcasters

Fox Sports broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Kyle Shanahan, Chris Myers, and Clint Bowyer

This weekend’s Cup race is the last regular Cup race for Fox Sports. After next weekend’s non-points NASCAR Cup All Star race in Texas, the TV coverage will be done by NBC. For Sonoma the booth talent was Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Mike Joy, who is also racing in the Historic Trans-Am. For the Pre-Race pit walk, Bowyer and Gordon were joined by host Chris Myers, to interview celebrities and guests. They had a good time among themselves, sometimes winding up each other and/or their guests.

Brehanna Daniels

Brehanna Daniels

During Pre-Race Ceremonies crews were making ready, warming up, putting things in place, and settling their driver. The rear tire changer on the No.52 Ford of Josh Bilicki is Brehanna Daniels, the first African American woman to work on a NASCAR Cup team. She was doing some high-stepping steps and prances to get ready for the race. She has been doing this since 2016, when she was recruited by the NASCAR Diversity program when they came to her college where she was playing basketball. NASCAR was impressed by her athletic ability and exceptional hand speed. She worked on ARCA and NASCAR Truck teams before moving up to Cup. Prior to being recruited, Daniels hadn’t followed NASCAR. When she’s not training for crew work, she’s a clothing entrepreneur, and been on TV. Maybe you’ve seen her in that Advil commercial showing her going over the wall.

Inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is complete. There were no issues. The No. 19 had one lug nut not safe and secure.

The next NASCAR Cup Series points race is Nashville Sunday 20 June 2021.

HOMETOWN HERO

Race Winner Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Pole sitter Kyle Larson won Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race at Sonoma Race in dominating fashion. He swept all three stages, and led 57 of the 90 laps. He only fell behind after pit stops but wasted no time in catching up and pulling away in his No.5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. Each time Larsen pitted he fell back, and charged his way back up to the lead and stretched his gap. This was his first back-to-back race this season, his third victory this year, and his ninth career win. He now moves into second place for points with 617, behind Denny Hamlin who leads with 664. Larson’s teammate, Chase Elliot is in third place. Larsen, who hails from Elk Grove, CA first came to the track, then called Sears Point Raceway, at the age of five. He calls Sonoma his home track.

Elliott, who’s known as a good road racer, gave Larson a run for his money in the race, driving No.9 Napa Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr came in third, driving his No.19 Bass Pro Toyota. Fourth and fifth were Joey Logano in No.22 Autotrader Ford and Kyle Busch in No.18 Sport Clips Toyota.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott

There was a lot of good racing behind Larson in the first big pack, with passing and maneuvers, mostly clean. The Northern California racer said he’s been working on his restarts. One thing which has helped him this last week was the team hiring American road racer, Scott Speed to work with him. Larsen said it really helped, and he got better in outbreaking this weekend. He said he had to learn the track really quickly as there were some changes since he last raced here.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch

There were eight cautions for 18 laps, two coming in the last three laps, three within 18 laps of the finish. It seemed every time Larson got the lead and pulled away, another caution came to bunch of the field. Larson made some bold and daring passes when going for the lead after pit stops and was successful in fending off attempts to crowd or pass him in tight squeezes. The majority of problem-causing cautions came in Stage Three, involving multiple cars. Caution Six right after a Restart involved seven cars in Turn 11. William Byron went to the garage with severe body damage; Kevin Harvick pitted for removal of hood, fender and assorted parts – some of which were given to eager race fans hanging out by his pits. Corey LaJoie pitted for body work. Others were Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Erik Jones. Caution Seven involved a bobble by Michael McDowell, and three cars were caught out – Cody Ware, who was taken to the infield care center and released; Ryan Preece and Matt DeBenedetto. The last caution in Turn 4 involved Anthony Alfredo, Bell, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. The one incident in the first stage involved Ricky Stenhouse crashing in Turn One, bringing out the fork lift and assorted equipment.

DENNY HAMLIN

DENNY HAMLIN

Chase Briscoe, winner of Saturday’s ARCA race, was the Sunoco Rookie of the Race, driving No.14 Ford Performance School Ford. He started 25th and finished 17th, on the lead lap.

Other race stats: The race ran 3 hrs, 14 mins, 42 secs. There were thirteen lead changes among seven drivers: Kyle Larson 1-9; Denny Hamlin 10-11; Larson 12-21; Kurt Busch 22-27; William Byron 28-32; Larson 33-42; Kurt Busch 43-44; Chase Elliott 45-57; Larson 58-64; Joey Logano 65-66; Kyle Busch 67-68; Larson 69-72; Logano 73-75 and Larson 76-92. Thirty-three of the 37 starters finished the race, all on the lead lap. Two DNFs were accidents and two were mechanical. The average race speed varied from 70.430 mph to 89.755 mph.

Fox Sports broadcasters

Fox Sports broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Kyle Shanahan, Chris Myers, and Clint Bowyer

This weekend’s Cup race is the last regular Cup race for Fox Sports. After next weekend’s non-points NASCAR Cup All Star race in Texas, the TV coverage will be done by NBC. For Sonoma the booth talent was Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Mike Joy, who is also racing in the Historic Trans-Am. For the Pre-Race pit walk, Bowyer and Gordon were joined by host Chris Myers, to interview celebrities and guests. They had a good time among themselves, sometimes winding up each other and/or their guests.

Brehanna Daniels

Brehanna Daniels

During Pre-Race Ceremonies crews were making ready, warming up, putting things in place, and settling their driver. The rear tire changer on the No.52 Ford of Josh Bilicki is Brehanna Daniels, the first African American woman to work on a NASCAR Cup team. She was doing some high-stepping steps and prances to get ready for the race. She has been doing this since 2016, when she was recruited by the NASCAR Diversity program when they came to her college where she was playing basketball. NASCAR was impressed by her athletic ability and exceptional hand speed. She worked on ARCA and NASCAR Truck teams before moving up to Cup. Prior to being recruited, Daniels hadn’t followed NASCAR. When she’s not training for crew work, she’s a clothing entrepreneur, and been on TV. Maybe you’ve seen her in that Advil commercial showing her going over the wall.

Inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is complete. There were no issues. The No. 19 had one lug nut not safe and secure.

The next NASCAR Cup Series points race is Nashville Sunday 20 June 2021.

Chase Elliott & Kyle Larson

Chase Elliott & Kyle Larson. Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing

FANS IN THE STANDS

J Fanstand

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?

NASCAR Tech Station

NASCAR Tech Station

NASCAR Tech Station

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 Chevrolet

Kyle Larson Chevrolet

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.

Ken Esman Tour Guide

Ken Esman Tour Guide

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.

H Fanstand

Kyle Shanahan

Kyle Shanahan

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.

Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri

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.

I Fanstand

SMOKING HOT RACING

Briscoe Pre Race

Briscoe

It was smoking hot Saturday at Sonoma Raceway for the General Tire 200 ARCA Menards Series West Race. That refers to the grass fire started by Tony Toste when he pulled off on fire in Turn One on Lap 35. It refers to the hot, fast and furious race pace of the various packs of cars all vying for position. And it refers to the smoking burnouts performed by race winner Chase Briscoe, first parked at the Pit Wall on the front straight and then the smoking doughnuts performed on the Turn 11 infield. He led all 51 laps of the 50-lap race.

Chase Briscoe was the only Cup driver to enter Saturday’s ARCA race and was the leading driver for all but about two minutes of the Saturday ARCA track time. The only lap he didn’t lead in his No.14 Huffy-Parker Boats Ford was the last one in qualifying when he was pipped by Jake Drew in No.9 Sunrise Ford-Lucas Oil Ford for the pole position. Briscoe started the race third behind Todd Souza in No.13 Central Coast Cabinets Ford.

The Green Flag was delayed three laps for the Sonoma Stripe – a huge swath of oil laid down by Zane Smith’s MadoroM Wine-Best Western Sonoma Chevrolet from Turn Five all the way to Turn Seven. A wide ribbon of grease sweep aka oil dry covered the oil on the track. And then Souza was given a black flag penalty for jumping the start and had to pit. No sooner than the Green Flag was given, then the first of several cautions came out for Rod Kneeland’s Chevrolet which had to be towed after it parked unsafely with mechanical problems.

The field would bunch up for the restart, and Briscoe would take off once given the Go flag.This scenario was repeated and replayed six more time in the 50-lap race. It wasn’t a record for the Series. There was the scheduled half-time pit stop for the field. The drivers were frisky and tested their limits, against the track and with each other. Several had varying degrees of contact. There was some good close and tight racing, especially up in front.

Dylan Lupton in McAnally Toyota finished second, followed by Paul Pedroncelli Jr in his Chevrolet. Fourth was the top Rookie, Cole Moore in another McAnally Toyota, followed by Souza, who overcame his penalty push to the back.

Pole sitter Drew, one of nine Rookies, finished seventh, behind Rookie Dean Thompson’s Huddleston Ford.

Burgess Pit Stop

Burgess Chevrolet

Bridget Burgess overcame several setbacks to finish eighth, after starting ninth. She ran as high as fifth before being hit by Jesse Love’s McAnally Toyota and falling to 14th. She worked back through several restarts and got back up to tenth and then eighth. She spun out by herself, fell back and caught up. During the halftime stop, after her crew serviced her car, it went over to help out Bobby Hillis,Jr. who basically had little or no crew. After another caution she pitted while the parents checked front tires and under the hood before sending her back out. Burgess caught up again.

Ninth and tenth were Rookie Ryan Philpot’s Chevrolet and Bobby Hillis Jr’s Chevrolet.

Thirteen of the 22 drivers finished the race and all were on the lead lap. The other nine DNF. The top Rookie was Cole Moore in a McAnally Toyota.

Under NASCAR’s Covid protocols, drivers can’t interact with the media, so everything is done remotely. This means a short televised Victory ‘ceremony’ with the traditional Sonoma Wine Goblet and a brief Zoom post-race interview for the winner. Briscoe said a road course is more challenging. He definitely had more fun than he thought he would, and is looking forward to tomorrow (NASCAR Cup race.) He said Sonoma was a technical track, and he wished he could have had more practice.

In the Historic Trans-Am race with 22 starters, Jim Hague was on pole with his golden yellow 1970 Mustang. And it seems that nearly every time the field came by Start-Finish a different driver was ahead. Taking turns leading were Ken Epsman/No.2 red/white/blue 1972 Javelin; Bill Ockerland in No.6 blue 1969 Camaro, and Richard Goldsmith in No.77 green (slime) 1970 Dodge Challenger.

Richard Goldsmith #77

Jim Hague #16

Jeffrey O'Neill #15

Goldsmith squeaked by to finish first, followed by Hague, Jefrey O’Neill in No.15 red 1969 Mustang, Patrick Byrne in No.15 white 1967 Mustang, and Ockerlund. Mike Joy finished 18th in No.89 black 1966 Mustang.

Mike Joy #89

Sunday’s schedule calls for Trans-Am warmup, then half-hour race. The Pre Race Ceremonies start at noon, with Cup Driver Introductions at 1pm, followed by the three-stage race. The stages are 20/40/90 laps, for 226.8 miles.

The NASCAR garage is fairly quiet now, as the ARCA haulers move out. The NASCAR contingent comes in at 7:30pm local time.

ARCA pits

ON THE ROAD AGAIN ….

Welcome Race Fans

After 714 days, NASCAR has returned to the wine country road course known as Sonoma Raceway.It’s being called the biggest sporting event in the Bay Area, and the largest outdoor event in California since the pandemic started. Jill Gregory, the new Executive Vice President and General Manager of the track has been working with all the appropriate California and Sonoma County bureaucracies to meet the California Covid protocols.

Jill Gregory

Jill Gregory

For Sonoma Raceway, which has a 47,000 capacity, it means a 33% capacity this weekend to meet social distancing requirements. This translates to about 15-16,000 fans. Tickets sold out quickly for the one-day Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race on Sunday. Tickets were still available for Saturday’s General Tire 200 ARCA Menards Series West race and Historic TransAm race. Gregory said the electronic/digital aspect made ticketing easier to manage with longer deadlines. Part of the Raceway’s protocols call for touch-less and digital processes. All ticketing, electronic waivers and signatures are digital to one’s phone. All tickets are reserved, with no General Admission. There will be a new clear bag policy for items being brought into the track, and no golf carts allowed this weekend.

Five hundred fans will be campers, who have to park in a designated area – the 50 Acre Campground. They will all face forward in the same direction rather than in circular compounds. Campers are limited to their own pod or family bubble, and the showers aren’t open. In the grandstands there will be Socially distanced seating, designated by tickets. Interspersed will be 200 Cardboard Cutouts that folks were invited to purchase for placement. Afterwards, they can be picked up and it’s estimated by Cheri Plattner, Community Events Manager, that 90% of them will be picked up and the rest responsibly recycled. The effort raised $50,000 for Speedway Children’s Charities. Friday, a non-track day, Sonoma Raceway hosted Laps for Charity which raised even more money for the Speedway Charities.

The ARCA cars arrived Friday night and are using the Cup garages and pit lane. Once their event is over Saturday afternoon, they will pack up and depart, allowing for the entrance of the Cup haulers and circus. The Historic Trans Am are paddocked behind the main grandstand, near the vendor area.

Sonoma is the third road course race on the Cup schedule this year, but is the only road course with a Cup history. Daytona and COTA were first-time events.

The ARCA field has 22 drivers, including Cup regular, Chase Briscoe. This is the ARCA Menards West Series, not to be confused with the ARCA Menards Series racing as we speak at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. That race just finished, with Ty Gibbs as the winner.

Todd Souza

Chase Briscoe

Left to right: Jake Drew; Todd Souza; and Chase Briscoe.

All 22 of the ARCA drivers participated in the hour-long practice/qualifying session. For 58+ minutes of the session, the fastest car was Stewart-Haas driver, Chase Briscoe driving No.14 Huffy Boats Ford. He was going 88.688 mph for a 1.42.191 lap around the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, which includes the Carousel this year. But it’s never over until the Checkered Flag flies. Jake Drew from Fullerton CA, driving No.9 Sunrise Ford-Lucas Oil Ford for Bob Bruncati pulled out a 89.073 mph lap on the last go-around, taking 1:41.848 to complete the lap. And Todd Souza from Aromas CA pulled in second, driving No.13 Central Coast Cabinets Ford for Kelly Souza. Briscoe, who hails from Mitchel IN, ended up third.

Bridget Burgess

Bridget Burgess

The majority of the ARCA West drivers are from California, with one each from Arizona, Indiana, Japan, and Utah via Australia. The lone female driver, Bridget Burgess comes from Brisbane, Australia, and now lives in Utah, where she once dreamed of competing as a speed skater in the Olympics. Her mother Sarah and father are her crew. The two of them work on the race car, as does Bridget.

Twenty-three Trans Am drivers are entered, with many regulars in this popular series which has a whole tour this season. Included in the Sonoma field are Fox TV motorsports broadcaster Mike Joy in No.89 1966 Mustang; John Hildebrand driving the No.49 Gray Ghost 1964 Pontiac Tempest; and Ken Epsman in No.2 1972 Javelin. The Trans Am cars had a half hour practice and a half hour qualifying session in preparation for the Saturday afternoon race. Pole sitter for the half-hour race is Jim Hague in No.16 yellow 1970 Mustang

John Hildebrand

Left to right: Jim Hague’s No.16 Mustang; Mike Joy; and John Hildebrand and Gray Ghost.

The ARCA and Trans-Am races are Saturday afternoon. Trans-Am also has a second race Sunday morning before the Cup Pre Race ceremonies. This year most of the showy acts will go on, such as Parade Laps, Parachute drop and Patriots Jet Air Show. What will not happen is the Driver’s Meeting and Driver Introductions across the stage in front of the cheering fans. There will be Intros, but on camera for the big screen. The drivers are more regulated and somewhat isolated this year. They arrive at the track Sunday morning, stay within their own pods until the call to the cars. Their Video Meeting will be recorded and shared by NASCAR.

The weather was sunny and breezy all day with wisps of cloud streaks. It did not feel as warm as the low eighties showed on the thermometer. Tomorrow’s forecast is for more of the same, with fewer clouds.

ACURAS RULE!

Acura Team Penske cars

The Acura Team Penske teammates pretty much dominated the penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, starting and finishing first and second – but not in their qualifying order. The winner was Dane Cameron from Northern California, with co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya in No.7 Acura. The pole position car came in second, with Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves. Third was Philipe Derani in No.31 in Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac with Felipe Nasr. He had been chasing Ricky Taylor/No. 10 Minolta Konica Cadillac for much of the race, and passed him in the last 11 minutes. The Margin of Victory was 9.84 seconds and the leader ran 121 laps. The top six cars finished on the lead lap.

Dane Cameron

Cameron’s victory cinched the manufacturer’s championship for Acura.

The weather was clearly much milder than previous days, at 71 F degrees ambient and 84 F track temperatures. The 270-mile race race green, with no Safety Cars.

This was the 15th sports car victory for Cameron, a lucky 13 in the WeatherTech Series. For teammate JPM, it was his sixth in sports cars, and third in WeatherTech. The veteran driver was motivated, as Montoya turned the fastest DPi race lap on Lap 5 at 105.096 mph.

Cameron said “It feels pretty good to win here. It’s especially satisfying to win here after giving away that one a couple of years ago. I grew up in Sonoma, just a few hours north of here. I spent a lot of times here as a kid watching Champ Car races and Formula Atlantics and stuff. I probably watched this guy (referring to his teammate) and Helio in IndyCars when they were here. So it’s nice to get the prototype victory.” Cameron has won here at Laguna Seca, but in GT cars. This was his first prototype win.

Montoya said “It’s a big relief before Petit (Petit Le Mans.) We made sure we had tires at the end.”

There were seven overall lead changes among four drivers: Cameron-75 laps; Ricky Taylor/No.7 Acura-38 laps; Jordan Taylor/No.10 Minolta Konica Cadillac-1 lap; and Tristan Nunez/No.77 Mazda Team Joest-7 laps.

No.52 LMP2 ORECA

In LMP2, with only the two ORECA cars, both made the podium. Matthew McMurray took the Checkered Flag in No.52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, with teammate Dalton Kellett. McMurray said the cooler temperatures didn’t help that much for tire management. Runner up was Cameron Cassels in No.38 Performance Tech Motorsports, with co-driver Kyle Masson, who turned the fastest LMP2 race lap of 101.764 mph.

Dirk Mueller & Joey Hand

Dirk Mueller & Joey Hand

This was the Joey Hand’s and his team’s first GTLM win this season in No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, with co-driver Dirk Mueller. “I’ve been trying since 1998 to win here on my home track. This is more about the people around me, more so about the team. It didn’t start out well. It was pretty bad at first. We went from worst car here to best car here. This is my race for camping here, with my wife and friends. This one really feels really good. This track stands out on any race calendar, but especially for me a California guy.”

No.66 Chip Ganassi Ford GT

Tommy Milner/No.4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7 R ran the fastest GTLM race lap of 97.660 mph.

In the last ten minutes of the race, it was Gutsy GT driving, with the two factory Corvettes, Antonio Garcia No.3 and Tommy Milner/No.4 with John Edwards in No.24 Team RLL BMW – and slicing, dicing, chasing, side by side, nose to tail, nearly or maybe actually touching, but keeping it on the pavement and in forward motion. Fun to watch! In the end, Edwards prevailed ahead of Garcia and Milner, finishing second through fourth in class.

Corey Lewis & Bryan Sellers

Corey Lewis & Bryan Sellers

Bryan Sellars won GTD class in No.48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini, with co-driver Corey Lewis, who also ran the Lamborghini Super Trofeo race race. Lewis said each car completely different. The Trofeo series car was a street chassis. Sellars said their GTD win was a credit to the engineer, controlling tire degradation. “I think you have to look at this race, a lot of times it’s put on drivers. A lot of times it’s put on crew. But I have to say today it was all down to our engineer, Lars Giersing. He did a fantastic job, the car was great. One of the things we focused on this week was tire degradation and we were able to just run consistent and ultimately that was what was able to get us the win.”

No.48 Paul Miller Lamborghini

Sunday started very differently than the previous three days, in that not only was there fog, there was a deep layer of fog so pervasive that the start was delayed five minutes, after which the fog lifted just enough for visibility corner to corner. The ambient temperature was 57 degrees F and the track was only 60 degrees F. Five drivers chose not to go out. Felipe Albuquerque/No.5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac was the fastest DPi with a lap of 1:16.830; Dalton Kellett/No.52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA Cadillac was fastest in LMP2, at 1:20.030. Joey Hand, a local NorCal driver, topped GTLM with a lap of 123.193 in No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Joe Holton’s fast time of 1:25.751 was best for GTLD, driving No.76 Compass Racing McLaren.

IMSA Foggy Pre Grid

No.5, No.76 driving into the fog to Turn 4

Foggy Warmup

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

All cars passed Tech, and there are no updated standings for the Driver’s Championship.

The IMSA season finale is Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, a 10-hour endurance race on 12 October 2019. It will be televised live on NBC starting at noon ET.

RICKY’S RECORD RUN

Pole Car No.7 Acura Team Penske

Ricky Taylor put the No.7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi on the pole for Sunday’s IMSA Monterey Grand Prix with a record lap of 1:15.035. This broke the record set last year by his brother, Jordan.Taylor’s teammate is Helio Castroneves. The No.6 sister car will start on the front row based on the time set by Juan Pablo Montoya. JPM had been fastest overall Friday at 1:16.003 on the 2.238-mile elevated road course for the penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which just happens to be running at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Montoya’s teammate is Dane Cameron who grew up racing on the Monterey race track.

Ricky Taylor

This is the fourth pole position for Team Penske, with each of the four drivers now having scored one. Taylor was the last of the four to get a pole, and he felt it was his turn “to pull his weight.” His race strategy includes “keeping the tires under us, and be there at the end.”

No.7 Acura Team Penske DPi

No.7 Acura Team Penske

No. Acura Team Penske DPi

Third through fifth in the DPi class were Jordan Taylor, with co-driver Renger van de Zande in No.10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R; Tristan Nunez in No.77 Mazda Team Joest DPi, with teammate Olier Jarvis; and Felipe Nasr in No.31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, with co-driver Pipo Derani.

Kyle Masson put No.38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA on the LMP2 pole at 1:16.817. His co-driver is Cameron Cassels.

Jesse Krohn is the pole sitter for GTLM in No.24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE, with co-driver John Edwards.His lap was 1:21.557.

Corey Lewis is on the GTD pole with Bryan Sellers in No.48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, at 1:24.962.

Thirty-one of the 32 drivers qualified. Patrick Lindsey crashed No.73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in Turn 10. He spun out and hit the concrete wall near the grid gate hard three times. The car damage included all four corners with all wheels going in different directions. It took 13 people to load up the car onto the rollback tow truck.

Justin Bell & Tommy Kendall

Two people who will no doubt be talking about young drivers Ricky Taylor and Conor Daly are Justin Bell and Tommy Kendall, hosts of The Torque Show, which will air at least once daily during the Monterey weekend. It is live streaming and covers every round of the IMSA Series.

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo Race was won by Conor Daly/No.46 Precision Performance Motorsports and teammate Brandon Gdovic, racing in the Pro Class. His Margin of Victory was 1.825 seconds ahead of Corey Lewis/No.29 and co-driver Richy Antinucci in the Pro/Am Class. Daly turned the fastest race lap of 1:25.865/93.830 mph. Gdovic had started the race third on the grid. The race was live-streamed on imsatv or squadracorse.lamborghini.com/live-streaming with commentary from IMSA Radio. Daly will start Sunday’s race on pole.

Other class winners were James Sofronas racing by himself in No.14 GMG Racing in the Am and he turned the fastest race lap in that class – 1:26.657/92.973 moh; and Ashton Harrison/No.43 Prestige Performance/WTR in the LB Cup class, who turned its fastest race lap of 1:27.730/91.836 mph. His co-driver was Stephanie Cemo.

Conor DalyAfterwards Daly said it was nice racing again on the iconic circuit. He hadn’t raced here for many years, the last being in 2004. Daly loves Laguna Seca, saying it is a very technical track.

Daly is slated to race the Laguna round of IndyCar next weekend, reuniting him with Andretti Autosport. The Lamborghini rounds at Laguna Seca being at Laguna one week ahead of Daly’s IndyCar run wasn’t part of the plan when Daly signed on for the Lamborghini series back in February. At that time he had nothing firmed up for the season. Daly is slated to race the Laguna round of IndyCar next weekend, reuniting him with Andretti Autosport.

Sunday’s schedule calls for Warmups, Driver Autograph session, another IMSA Fan Walk, track VIP Hot Laps, and some racing – Lamborghini’s second race, the feature Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren race lasting 2 hours 40 minutes, followed by the second Porsche race. The IMSA race starts at 12:05 pm local time/3:05pm ET. This is the first time an IMSA race has been shown live on NBC TV.