Sonoma Raceway notes: Next stop for NASCAR is Wine Country
There’s less than a week to go before the haulers of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series cross the U.S. from the South for their annual trek to Sonoma Raceway in Wine Country for the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
The series finished up back-to-back weeks at superspeedways (tracks greater than two miles long) with a visit to Michigan this past weekend. A rain-soaked weekend pushed the race’s green flag to 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday, which Joey Logano won, holding off a hard-charging Kurt Busch in a green-white checkered flag finish after Logano led 163 of 203 laps.
The series now turns to the full Sonoma County 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, complete with the carousel for the first time since 1997. The race will go down from its usual 110-lap length on the 1.99-mile course to just 90 laps on the longer course. Among the main differences are that “the chute” of turns 4a and 7a isn’t raced on, and the racing goes onto the track’s longest straightaway, with turn 7 becoming a hairpin.
Mark Martin won the last race on the carousel road course in 1997, and only three current active drivers have experience on the longer road course: Kevin Harvick in the West Series in 1995, Kyle Busch in a legends car and Jimmie Johnson in a Formula Ford. Martin also holds the track record on the longer course, a 1:37.751 at 92.807 mph set on May 2, 1997.
The raceway is touting a renovated fan viewing area at “The Point” which officials said will be the closest point to watch race activity in the carousel and the restarts as the field heads up the hill into turn 2.
In addition to Sunday’s race, Saturday will see the 50-lap Procore 200, featuring drivers from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, including 17-year-old Hailie Deegan, who has already won two races in 2019. The green flag for that race will be at 1:45 p.m. and some Monster Energy Series drivers are expected to also compete.
The weekend starts on Friday, with practice for both the Monster Energy Cup series and K&N West series. The Cup stars’ first practice is at 11:35 a.m., K&N takes the track from 1:05 p.m. to 2:25 p.m. and the Cup series final practice starts at 2:35 p.m. Gates open for fans at 10 a.m.
Tickets are available through sonomaraceway.com/NASCAR or 800-870-7223.
Wednesday Night Drags
Two Sonoma County residents took home victories in raceway’s first Wednesday Night Drags series in a few weeks.
Santa Rosa’s Craig Love captured the Gear Jammer division, using a reaction time that was just one-thousandth of a second faster than his opponent to take his 2014 Ford Mustang to a 0.314 victory in the finals.
In the Comp Rod division, Cotati’s Nick Bublitz overcame a slow reaction time at the start in his 2001 Chevrolet Corvette to overpower a 2013 Dodge Challenger by more than one second.
The Wednesday Night Drags program runs almost every Wednesday. Currently in its 31st year, it runs from March 13 through Nov. 13, but not during NASCAR’s visit. Fans can race their vehicles down the quarter-mile drag strip in a controlled environment away from city streets. Gates open at 3:30 p.m., with racing from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Competitors must have a driver’s license to compete, their cars must pass a technical inspection and all vehicles must have mufflers. Up to 300 cars are allowed to enter.
Running alongside the drags will be Sonoma Drift, where pros and amateurs can swing wheels to perfect their drifting techniques.
Speed is secondary as competitors are judged on the style and execution of their drift through a marked course in the raceway’s paddock. Cars must pass a technical inspection before being allowed to drift.
Drifting starts at 4 p.m. Drivers pay $25 and high school students with ID can race for $15 at the gate. Spectators can watch for $10.
The next Wednesday Night Drags is June 26.