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.

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

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.

TRUEX WINS SONOMA

Martin Truex

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota won the 30th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race at Sonoma Raceway, with a 10.513 second Margin of Victory ahead of Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford. Truex led four times for 62 laps, the most of any driver. Truex is a repeat winner at Sonoma, breaking the streak of nine different winners in nine races. This is his third victory this season, his third on a road course as he won Sonoma in 2013, 18th in Cup, and his second road course win in a year as he won Watkins Glen last year.

The weather was a mild 80 degrees F, with 12 mph breezes and 46 percent humidity.

Truex was running second behind Harvick, when Harvick pitted. Truex stayed out, although his Crew Chief, Cole Pearn, called an audible and then rescinded.

Pearn said it was planned to do one pit stop. “We knew we were going to do one stop. That was kind of our plan. We just – we really needed them to pit earlier for it to work out. It was a bit of a gamble obviously, but obviously it paid off and worked out great. It’s tough. Everybody is so good in this, it sometimes takes something different to mix it up to pull one out.” Regarding the Pit/No Pit call, Pearn said “I felt it was better to call it and then call it off. Martin understood we were only doing one stop. We were lucky no caution came out.”

Truex said “I just drove the car. That’s what I do. I’m cool with whatever he wants to do. Cole and I have a great relationship. I tell him all the time, like you know win, lose or draw, we do it together and I just got a lot of trust in him. I don’t even say anything when he says pit or don’t pit. I just did what he wants to do, so awesome job by him today.”

“The last ten laps were easy. A little stressful. I was just hoping for no cautions because we had a big lead.”

Kevin Harvick and son

Harvick was runner-up. He led three times, for 35 laps. He turned the fastest race lap and on the final race lap he cut the gap behind Truex by half. “I think I was too hard on the car. I had a lot of problems with the car. Just kind of a few things compounded there to add up to a few things that didn’t work out to win the race today. We had a really good weekend and came up one spot short.” Regarding Truex’s late pit stop being confusing to him, Harvick responded “It didn’t affect our day at all. I don’t think it would have been any different of an outcome.”

Clint Bowyer

Finishing third was Clint Bowyer/No.14 One Cure Ford. Bowyer said ” I get bummed out when you get that close. Hate to give up the stage points. It’s fun no matter how you finish.” Regarding Truex’s pit strategy, “You know, you just don’t know what’s going on. You pick up little bits ad pieces of what the crew chief and spotter are telling you. But I saw him (Truex) stay out when we pitted and I was like, what’s that mean. And I kept looking, where is the 78? But, I had fun and I’m ready to go see my little guy.”

Fourth and fifth were Chase Elliott/No.9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota. Busch still leads the overall Driver standings, 72 points ahead of Harvick, but Harvick has one more Playoff point than Busch. Truex is now fifth overall, and third in Playoffs.

The top Rookie was William Byron/No.24 Liberty University Chevrolet, who finished twenty-fifth. He leads the Rookie standings.

Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Express Toyota won Stage Two. Truex won Stage Three and the race.

There was only one two-lap caution for cause – a new record for Sonoma; and two cautions to end stages – three laps each. AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet brought out the second caution of the race after he missed a shift/blew up early on in Stage Two and stalled on course going uphill to Turn One. He said it was the first shift he’s missed on a road course in ten years. It was especially sad for him as Allmendinger had just won Stage One. He had gridded fifth and worked his way up to take the lead on Lap 23 of the 25-lap stage.

With so few cautions, the race speeds just kept increasing, and by the last 15 laps of the race, almost every lap was faster. The average race speed was 82.862 mph, compared to last year’s average of 78.71 mph. The average race speed in Stage One was 89.692.

Twenty-one cars of the finishers were on the lead lap. Only one driver retired due to an accident – Cole Whitt/No.72 Chevrolet, who hit the wall. It didn’t even bring out a caution and he was alright. Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet had oil pump problems, lost pressure and the engine shut off. Cody Ware/No.52 SBC Contractors/Bubba Burger Chevrolet had fuel pump problems.

Pole sitter Kyle Larson/No.42 DC Solar Chevrolet led two laps and finished fourteenth.

There were seven leaders with 11 lead changes: Pole sitter Larson; Truex; Harvick, Allmendinger; Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Express Toyota-four laps; and Erik Jones/No.20 DeWalt Toyota and Kurt Busch/No.41 Haas Automation Ford who each led a lap.

The race lasted 2 hours 38 minutes 28 seconds, eight minutes 24 seconds faster than last year, which had two cautions, which was a record at the time. Sunday’s race wasn’t as exciting as some, but it certainly was cleaner and less aggressive than most. Drivers commented that some drama was missing as there were no restarts. Harvick said “You know, this is always a tough race, and it’s not always about slamming into people. I think as you look at the restarts, that’s usually where the most damage comes, and we didn’t have many of those today.” Bowyer said “We never got a restart or anything else to put on a show. That’s unfortunate. You work your ass off out there. I mean, it’s hard to showcase that.”

All cars cleared tech and no cars were taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center. The engine from Truex’s car did go back for inspection.

The next MENCS race is the Overton’s 400 1 July 2018 at Chicagoland Speedway, airing live on NBCSN at 2:30pm ET.

Sonoma Rising

SONOMA SUNDAY – PRE RACE STYLE

NASCAR Garage

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – if that happens to be Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – and try saying that five times fast. It’s 71 degrees F and only predicted to have a high of 77 – quite a welcome drop from Saturday’s 101 F. The humidity is 58 percent and the wind is desultory in places, and frisky in others.

Sonoma Raceway, an elevated road course, is utilizing the 1.99-mile, ten turn NASCAR configuration. It has 160 feet (49 m) of total elevation change. The track was opened fifty years ago.

There are mobs of people everywhere. Tours are being led, gaggles and groups are clogging the byways and and there’s a lot to see. The view from the Spotters’ Stand on top of the John Cardinale Media Center is amazing, and appreciated all the more for the very steep and tall ladder one must traverse. Spotters used to go on top of the Drag Tower, but when the new, big ISM Vision TV screen was installed outside the top floor and roof, no one could see over it.

Victory Circle TV crowd

There’s a busy Pre-Race Schedule with two separate air shows – Wild Thing Airshows with ex-Romanian Military IAR-823 aircraft & Patriots Jet Team Air Show for 25 minutes with six-L-39 albatross jets; lots of pomp and circumstance with bands and grid girls, introductions, presentations, traditions, Driver Introductions and Driver’s Parade. Throw in live pre race telecast in Victory Lane and Talk With The Champ – Martin Truex, and you have a plethora of choices.

In the garages, the teams pushed their cars down to the pit lane – a veritable parade, with a variety of techniques for negotiating the pit ramp.

No.34 Chevrolet

No.10 Ford

No.88 Chevrolet

In Pit Lane it’s sensory overload with all the colors. liveries, signs, logos, and tchotchkes on the car hoods. Pit Tours, Pre-Race TV broadcasting, and crews tire marking for quick installation. So much going on.

Pit Stop Sign

Matt Yocum

Tire Marking

Drivers made their way to the stage for their introductions, wending their way in some instances past the fans.

Michael McDowell

Bubba Wallace

Denny Hamlin

The field of 38 cars is lined up in Pit Lane and covered up from the heat. The race stages will be 25 laps, 50 laps and 110 laps. The race distance is 218.9-miles/110 laps. Each driver will execute 1,210 turns during the race, so said the talking heads on the FSI Pre Race Show.

The race will be telecast live on Fox Sports 1.

Cup cars lineup

RUBBIN’ IS RACIN’ FOR RODGERS

Will Rodgers

Pole sitter Will Rodgers/No.7 KELLY Benefit Strategies Ford learned well from his teammate last year – Kevin Harvick – how to get through Turn 11 and how to handle restarts. Rodgers finished a close second last year to Harvick in the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race, and this year he won a hard fought victory, and he turned the fastest race lap of 89.424 mph. He led 35 of the 64-laps. This was is second road course victory in as many races – and back to back – East Coast and West Coast Series. And it’s a good thing he subscribes to the ‘rubbin’ is racin’ philosophy as there was some of that.

Aric Almirola

Aric almirola

Rodgers led laps and got racy with those surrounding him, falling back at one point to seventh place. But he clawed his way back and with some gutsy driving with Cup drivers Daniel Suarez/No.No.54 ARRIS Toyota and Aric Almirola/No.41 DenBeste Water Solutions Ford, he prevailed after a daring pass of Almirola in Turn 11.

William Byron

William Byron

Finishing second, 4.420 seconds behind was Almirola. Third was another Cup driver, William Byron/No.27 Liberty Chevrolet. Byron has Max Papis as his full-time driver coach.

Suarez finished fourth, and Ryan Partridge/No.9 Sunrise Ford/Eibach/Lucas Oil/Braille Ford came in fifth – taking the points lead by one point.

The race is always exciting and a crowd pleaser. This time was no exception. There were lead changes – Rodgers – Almirola – Suarez. It would be interesting to see a lap chart. There were some crashes and hurt cars, but the drivers were all OK. It was a race of attrition as several cars gave up the ghost and retired. Most made it the Pit Lane on their own, some with help.

Hailie Deegan/No.19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota was the top finishing Rookie, coming in seventh behind Cup driver Erik Jones/No.9 Dewalt Toyota. Deegan, who races with Bill McAnally Racing, had gridded third and stayed in the front pack despite the aggressive drivers of others in that group, which included most if not all the five Cup drivers at any given time. She held her own and made a killer outside pass late in the race in turn 9 – and made it stick. That was a particularly frantic lap already and Deegan at that point had already been smoking for a couple of laps. She kept on driving and pushing, gaining positions after the smoke first appeared.

Deegan now leads the Rookie standings and has moved up to fifth in the overall points.

Deegan has been racing since she was eight. Her father, Bert Deegan, is a noted dirt, motorcycle and off-road racer. They come from Temecula CA, but are building a house in Mooresville NC. She was home schooled and just graduated. During Driver Introductions, she had a ‘mini-graduation, complete with cap, gown and diploma. Deegan said she wants to race on the East Coast, and is looking at the K&N Series and the Late Model Series. She definitely wants to stay in stock cars, 100 percent. “I want to race on Sunday. That’s the goal.” Deegan was coached by Chris Cook as she’d never been on the Sonoma race track before. She drove a Trans-Am car, which was a little different and it was about a thousand pounds lighter, but it was still helpful. She also ran the NASA race in a Mazda Miata – “not the highlight of my career.” Deegan was clear that she doesn’t want to be like Danica (Patrick), whom she thinks moved up too fast. Deegan wants to take it slower and in steps.

Haile Deegan

Haile Deegan

Deegan raced a K&N race in Bakersfield against Kevin Harvick and said she learned a lot. And the two have kept in contact. To prepare for this first-ever road race, she had some coaching from Chris Cook, a Bondurant instructor and part-time NASCAR driver. He’s racing No.51 Shockwave Chevrolt in Sunday’s Cup race, and she will definitely will be around for that, perhaps on the Pit Box.

Harvick said about Deegan – “Hailie’s doing great. She’s got a lot of potential. She’s got a great feel for what she needs to be concentrating on, loves to race, comes from a great family and a family that loves to race. She’s got a lot of work to do. She’s got a great mind set of how long it’s going to take, but she’s off to a good start. She doesn’t want to rush into it and take it step by step. Kevin agreed that’s the right thing to do. If you look at our sport, there’s a tendency to rush people because they’re marketable and people like them. But in the end you can look at Danica. No matter how marketable you are in the end it’s going to come down to results.”

Team Owner Bill McAnally said what impressed him about Hailie at her first test was her feedback. She immediately was able to say what she wanted in the car to go faster, and when she got it, she went faster. Deegan came to his attention via Toyota Racing Development’s Driver Development program for young, upcoming drivers. They in turn introduced her to McAnally, along with several other young drivers, and she’s been a part of the NASCAR NEXT Development program for the past two years – the only female this season. She has her roots in off-road racing.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford is helping Jeff Motley, Vice President of Public Relations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the promotional efforts for the K&N race which will be part of the Playoffs Race weekend. The K&N race will be on dirt Thursday night, the only dirt race on the schedule – this year or recently. Motley said Harvick told him, basically whatever the track needs, he’ll help. “I’m here to help in any way I can.” This will be the first time the Las Vegas track was in the Playoffs. The schedule calls for the Truck race on Friday night, Xfinity race Saturday afternoon and the Cup race on Sunday. Harvick, having come up through the various NASCAR series, has always been a big supporter of grass roots racing. Motley said “That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Harvick said “I’m glad we’re going to Las Vegas and that city is going to embrace what we do. Sometimes you have to promote the sport correctly and do the things that it takes to promote from an event stand point. It’s not all about the cars. We’ve had some great races, but not every race is that great. Every football or baseball game is that great. It’s just a different time in how people absorb things, where they watch the race, and I think it’s time to concentrate more on the event, more on the atmosphere. Everybody used to hate to come to a road course ten years ago. But Sonoma – it’s an event, a destination event. All the sponsors show up to Sonoma, they have big events, you can bring your wife and family. It could be the best race you ever saw, it could be the worst race you ever saw, but everyone will have a great time. Really what needs to be concentrated on …. my point in all this is we’re gong to go to Las Vegas this year. I’ve seen the marketing plans, what NASCAR has planned. If we go into that market, we’re going to sell tickets, draw awareness, and work on the local TV ratings, all the local angles and what goes with that. Chicago had gone a little bit stale and the crowd wasn’t what it used to be. I think we need to show up at Las Vegas, and it’s going to be a great way to start the Playoffs. It’s a great city to do that in. What I’m saying is that you can come to this particular race and a lot of people that come to this particular race are not here for the race. They’re here for a good weekend with their husband, wife, daughter or they’re part of a group and they say ‘Man, I can go to the wine country and you go to a race and they’re gonna hear all those cars coming down the front stretch and they’re gonna drop the green flag, and they’re gonna say ‘Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this.They’re gonna see cars spinning through the dirt and running into the tire barriers. they’re going to watch five guys change the tires and fill the thing up with 20 gallons of fuel (and Mobil 1). It’s just an event like they’ve never seen before. When you go to these events – fifty percent of the crowd doesn’t care about the race because of the fact they’ve never been there. But when they leave fifty percent of those fifty percent are going to say ‘Man, when’s the next one?”And that’s what you want to leave them with. Having a great weekend. There are a lot of people that care about the race, but there are people that come to race that are coming to Sonoma for a great time.”

For those who missed the race, or want to relive all the excitement, it will be aired on NBCSN Thursday 28 June 2018 at 6 pm ET.

K&N field

NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST-Carneros 200 Results

(Start position in parentheses)
1. (1) Will Rodgers, Solvang, Calif., Ford, 64 laps, 58.482 mph.
2. (5) Aric Almirola, Tampa, Fla., Ford, 64.
3. (2) William Byron, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet, 64.
4. (6) Daniel Suarez, Monterrey, Mexico, Toyota, 64.
5. (4) Ryan Partridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Ford, 64.
6. (13) Erik Jones, Byron, MI, Toyota, 64.
7. (3) Hailie Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Toyota, 64.
8. (9) Derek Thorn, Lakeport, Calif., Ford, 64.
9. (16) Cole Keatts, Lewiston, Idaho, Ford, 64.
10. (8) Derek Kraus, Stratford, Wisc., Toyota, 64.
11. (11) David Mayhew, Atascadero, Calif, Chevrolet, 64.
12. (14) Cole Rouse, Fort Smith, Ark., Toyota, 64.
13. (18) Tom Klauer, Reno, Nev., Chevrolet, 64.
14. (26) Rodd Kneeland, Sonoma, Calif., Chevrolet, 63.
15. (20) Jesse Iwuji, Carrolton, Texas, Chevrolet, 63.
16. (24) Rich DeLong III, Santa Clarita, Calif., Chevrolet, 63.
17. (10) Kody Vanderwal, LaSalle, Colo, Ford, 56, engine.
18. (12) Jim Inglebright, Fairfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 46, clutch.
19. (15) Todd Souza, Aromas, Calif., Toyota, 45, engine.
20. (25) Trevor Huddleston, Agoura Hills, Calif., Ford, 44, electrical.
21. (17) Travis Milburn, Eagle, Idaho, Chevrolet, 39, electrical.
22. (19) Carlos Vieira, Atwater, Calif., Ford, 31, accident.
23. (23) Hollis Thackeray, Gridley, Calif., Toyota, 17, transmission.
24. (7) Alex Bowman, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 10, engine.
25. (21) Takuma Koga, Nagoya, Japan, Chevrolet, 9, accident.
26. (22) Matt Levin, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 1, accident.

LARSON AND RODGERS ON NASCAR POLES

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson/No.42 DC Solar Chevrolet has the pole for the 30th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, with a lap of 94.597 mph/1:15.732. It did not break the qualifying track record he set in 2015 of 96.568 mph/1:14.186. This is Larson’s sixth Cup pole position, and back to back from Sonoma last year. It also is the 697th overall Cup pole win for Chevrolet in the series, and 15th at Sonoma Raceway.

Larson said “It’s cool to get a pole at my own home track here in Sonoma; and DC Solar’s home track as well. Qualifying here is one of my favorite things of the year. So, I’m glad we could pick up a lot of time there and get the pole.”

It was 93 degrees at the start of Cup Qualifying, with 33 percent humidity and winds of five mph. It continued to heat up to 101, the wind picked up and the humidity continued to drop. The Cup qualifying session was delayed due to extensive cleanup during qualifying for the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race, after the track was extensively oiled from the Esses to Pit Lane. The announcer said it resembled the oil slick from the Exxon Valdeez. Billy Kahn/18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet grenaded his engine and flamed out while driving through Turn 8, leaving a swath not unlike the Exxon Valdez. With the humidity already low and lowering by the minute, no doubt Kahn felt it was wiser to continue to the pits rather than pull his flaming car off into the tinder-dry grass.

The course condition was of concern to Larson. “Yeah, I think we were all, or at least I was a little concerned with all the speedy dry over there. Even if it doesn’t affect the grip it is still in your head and you can see it and it affects you. I wouldn’t say I tip-toed through there, but I was a little more cautious the first round through all the speedy dry and through the esses and stuff. But then, once you get through there after the first round it seems fine. You can kind of just forget about it the second round and I think that is what I did.”

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota “I missed a little bit in Turn Two, I think. I missed my line a little bit and bumped the corner a little bit more than I would have liked to and I was a little late getting back to the gas there. I think I lost some time exiting two. Overall it was a really good lap.”

Martin Truex, Jr No.78 Toyota

Regarding the effect of the oil dry on his qualifying, Truex said “It didn’t affect me, it affected the way the qualifying session went, without a question. You could see that nobody wanted to be the first on the track. You could see that the guys that went out early were really slow. It’s really unfortunate when those things happen in a 25 minute session. You get down to 15 minutes to go, or something like that and everybody starts to get really antsy. You don’t want to jump the gun and go too early or you’ll be too slow which we have seen some guys do. It’s just one of those things. It’s really difficult, I wish they would have done a better job cleaning the track up. It appeared they didn’t have the equipment needed for it. The only way to really get the rest of it off is to run cars on it, unfortunately it was qualifying.”

Chase Elliott No.9 Chevrolet

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

AJ Allmendinger No.47 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and AJ Allmendinger.

Third through fifth were Chase Elliott/No.9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet; Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet; and AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet – who also has had a pole position at Sonoma.

Four of the top five were Chevrolets. Points leader Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota qualified ninth.

For Cup qualifying, they had two groups. The first group was the field, and AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet was fastest at 94.4770 mph/1:15.828. The second group was the top 12 from Group One.

During Cup Group One, more than several of the drivers sat up in ‘The Bus Stop’ by Turn 9 area waiting for a clear spot to take their flying lap. They were playing chicken with the clock.

Will Rodgers No.7 Ford

William Byron No.27 Chevrolet

Hailie Deegan

Left to Right: Will Rodgers, William Byron, and Hallie Deegan.

Will Rodgers/No.7 KELLY Benefits Strategies Ford took the pole position for the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race with a lap of 90.591 mph/1:19.081, faster than he ran Friday. He was in the third of the three qualifying groups with the third being the fastest, based on Friday practice speeds. His lap and that of William Byron/No.27 Liberty Chevrolet pipped the top speed of Group Two leader, Rookie Hailie Deegan/No.19 No.19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota, who will grid third.

The K&N West qualifying track record of 92.794 mph/1:17.203 at Sonoma was set by Cup driver, Kyle Larson on 21 June 2014. He holds the qualifying records in both NASCAR series which run at Sonoma. A native of nearby Elk Grove CA, Sonoma could be considered his ‘home’ track.

In the first group, Cole Keats/No.55 Peters & Keats Equipment Ford was fastest at 86.659 mph/122.669. There was drama in Group Two, first with Deegan jumping from mid-pack times to fastest. This is her first road course and her lap was 89.8270 mph/1:19.753. The other drama was Kahn’s car fire.

Group Three had to drive through the oil slick. By the end of their first qualifying lap, the caution came out to check the course conditions, after drivers had radioed in. A lengthy track cleanup prolonged the afternoon.

The scrutineering process for the MENCS has changed this year, with a more formalized, technilogical process. There are four stations the cars must visit, with the third now being in a closed, darkened tent with black flaps at each end, the better to protect the laser equipment measuring the various dimensions. The first three are in the paddock, and the fourth was in Pit Lane, after which time the cars lined up for Qualifying. Normally the crew members push the car station to station, remaining with the car during the process and sometimes doing things directed by NASCAR officials. In watching Jimmie Johnson/No.48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet going through a station, it was interesting to watch the ever-vigilant Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, one of the more technically creative Crew Chiefs, watching every single move and checking the car stem to stern before it rolled into the station.

No.18 Toyota in Station One

No.17 Ford in Station Two

No.14 Ford in Station Two

No.43 Chevrolet in Station Two

No.21 Ford in Station Two

No.3 Chevrolet in Station Four

No.37 Chevrolet in Station Three

Station Three

No.95 Chevrolet

No.48 Chevrolet in Station Two

Chad Knaus

Cup cars in Qualifying Lineup