The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series moves to wine country as the drivers tackle the road course of Sonoma. This will be the first of 3 road courses this season. Last year this race was won by Kevin Harvick. Sonoma will offer a difficult challenge for the drivers as they stray away from their usual left turn circuits.
Kyle Busch is the active leader in wins at Sonoma with 2 in his career, meaning he is the only current driver with multiple wins. Busch has been fast all year and is always a threat to win on the road courses. His average finish of 17.6 may not rank very high, but Busch does have 5 top 10s in 13 races. Look for Kyle Busch to contend on Sunday.
Clint Bowyer may not be a name that many NASCAR fans think of as a road course ace, but he holds the highest average finish of any active driver at Sonoma at 10.7. Bowyer has 9 top 10s in 12 starts at the track. He is also not a stranger to winning at the track, as he won in 2012.
Jimmie Johnson almost qualified as a sleeper pick. The 7 time Champion has struggled this season. Johnson has had success at Sonoma though. He has 9 top 10s in 17 races, as well as a win that came in 2010. Johnson has not finished worse than 17th here going all the way back to 2006. This means Johnson should be towards the front all day long.
Ryan Newman has the 3rd best average finish at Sonoma at 12.5. He has 7 top 10s in 16 starts. Newman, like most Chevy drivers this season, has not been contending for wins. Sonoma puts drivers on a more even playing field, and could be the boost Newman needs to score a win. Newman has also never finished off the lead lap in his Sonoma career.
AJ Allmendinger would have made the favorite list the last few years at this track. His win at Watkins Glen is now very far in the past, and Allmendinger has not fared well at Sonoma. He has finished 37th or worse in 3 of his last 4 starts at the track. Road courses give AJ his best chance of making the playoffs, and he will have to drive the wheels off his car to get a win.
Sonoma is a tricky 11 turn road course with lots of elevation changes. Look for passing to occur in turns 6 and 11. The hairpin turn 11 makes for some exciting racing as cars must slow way down to make the corner. Look for the race winning pass to be made there on Sunday.