The series took a week off after a Michigan race mostly dominated by Kevin Harvick once again, but won by his teammate, Clint Bowyer, when the rains came and washed away the full distance after a lengthy wait to dry the track to get the race started. I have no doubt that if the race would have run its entire distance, Mr. Harvick would have picked up his sixth win of the season.
TOYOTA/SAVE MART 350
So, the series and drivers head back out west to the Sonoma Raceway for the running of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. This is the first road course on the schedule, and I think we will see some of the drivers you don’t get to hear much about competing for a win this coming weekend.
In years past we used to see some teams hire road course specialists to run their cars for drivers who weren’t that adept at running on these courses so the owners could accumulate owner points. That is really not the case anymore. Recently those so called road course specialists that are entered haven’t done very well because frankly, they don’t have the cars or the teams to make that happen.
Matt Kenseth has signed to drive ten more races this season in the #6 car replacing Trevor Bayne once again beginning at Kentucky in the middle of July. The entry list isn’t out yet for the race this week as of this writing and Bayne is supposedly going to run this race in the #6, but we might want to wait and see if one of these specialist gets hired for this race. If so, and I am thinking maybe Boris Said, he might be a good choice in the C group of the Driver Group Game. The entry list will be out on Tuesday, so keep your eye on it.
Denny Hamlin: I am going to pick Denny Hamlin to win his first race at Sonoma this weekend. If he doesn’t make a mistake by speeding on pit road, which at this course would be unforgivable, I think he will pull it off. Early in his career he struggled here, but the last two years he has finished second and fourth here and led quite a few laps in each race. I think he takes that next step and is your winner this weekend.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin did win this race last year and has been very good here in his last four starts especially with three straight top ten finishes and in his race here four years ago he led twenty-three laps before coming away with a twentieth place finish in that race. This isn’t a race of speed, but more of handling. There are few places to really pass other drivers and you can’t afford to make a mistake here and Kevin has shown he doesn’t make many of those anywhere.
Kyle Busch: Kyle leads all active drivers with two wins at Sonoma. His last win came three years ago and he has finished in the top ten in the last three races here. He didn’t lead a lot of laps here the last two years, but he did lead laps in each of those races which is significant at this track and in this race which is only 110-laps long. You can’t go from the back to the front without a lot of strategy here, so you better start towards the front and stay towards the front if you want to contend.
Brad Keselowski: Other than his first race he ever ran at this track, Brad has finished every lap here since then. He is always competitive at the road course events and came away with a third place finish here last season. He also led seventeen laps in that race. He is looking for his first win of the season and he is going to do everything he can to compete for that win here once again this weekend.
Clint Bowyer: Last week’s winner has won at Sonoma in the past and has some of the most impressive stats here. If you take away the first race he ever ran here and the race he ran with HScott Motorsports two years ago when he had an electrical problem, he has finished in the top ten in nine of those other ten races. That is unreal. He finished second here last year. Look for him to try his best to win his third race of the season and second in a row.
Ryan Newman: While he is a long shot to win this weekend, Ryan has been pretty good here throughout his career. Granted, he has only led laps in one of his sixteen races here he has finished in the top twenty in fifteen of those races and has an average finish here of 12.5. This week you want drivers on your team who have shown how consistent they can be on this track and Ryan is one of the most consistent here.
Joey Logano: Joey is another driver I don’t really think about until I do my research when it comes to the road course events. Once I look at the statistics he looks pretty good to me. If you eliminate the first two races he has ever run here, you see he has finished in the top ten in four of the other seven and his worst finish in that stretch is sixteenth. Someone you might want to take a chance on this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson: Although he isn’t having the best start to his season, this driver and team seem to be getting better each and every week. I think that when it comes to the road course races you can throw out the stats you had the rest of the season. This is a whole different kind of racing and is more about the driver than the car. With one win, nine top ten finishes and and average finish of 12.5. Jimmie is another driver you could put on your roster this weekend.
Kurt Busch: Kurt is another driver who has been the model of consistency here over his career. He has one win, seven top five and nine top ten finishes in seventeen starts here which gives him an average finish of 14.1. In his last seven starts here he has only finished outside of the top ten once and that finish was still a twelfth. He is someone you want on your roster this weekend and is a reason why I was saving starts for him until this race.
A.J. Allmendiger: This is your road course specialist is there is one who is a regular in the Cup series. His stats don’t tell the whole story about how good he can really be here. Only two top ten finishes in nine races here. Average finish 22.4. Three of his last four finishes have been worse than thirtieth. Yet he is someone you might want to consider having on your team. He has started in the top ten and led laps in each of those four races. If not for bad luck he would have been there to compete for the win at the end of each of those races. Can you say dark horse?
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR SONOMA RACEWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game Group B
- Kurt Busch
- Clint Bowyer
- Ryan Newman
- A.J. Allmendinger
Driver Group Game Group C
- William Byron
- Chris Buescher
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT SONOMA RACEWAY
- Denny Hamlin
- Clint Bowyer
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Kurt Busch
Dark Horse: A.J. Allmendinger
Stay Away From: Erik Jones
Big 18: A.J. Allmendinger