It’s back to the left coast for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this weekend. The first stop is the Sonoma road course on Sunday. It’s a race where so-called road racing experts don’t mean much anymore, Oh, there were be some, but the regulars have gained the skill to win these races with their superior machinery.
Last year, it was Kevin Harvick in a Stewart-Haas Ford winning. Right behind him was his teammate Clint Bowyer in another SHR Ford. Both will be favorites and both are hot. Harvick has won five times in points races and added the All-Star race. Bowyer has won twice (Martinsville and Michigan). There will be plenty of other drivers chasing them. Four race winning driver Kyle Busch, current champion Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and Kasey Kahne, are all former winners and will be in the field on Sunday.
Racing on road courses has become popular with drivers and the fan base. Charlotte Motor Speedway is going to use its infield road course, called a ROVAL, in September. Later in the season, the Cup drivers will make their usual stop at Watkins Glen International. So, what is everyone’s fascination with road courses in NASCAR’s top series? Close racing is the answer.
A full 30 percent of the tracks raced on in the series are on 1.5-mile tracks that have been very uncompetitive in recent years. Fans love the close and fender-rubbing racing on road courses. Many felt that the racing resembled the kind of race they see at Martinsville, Bristol, and Richmond. The boredom of the so-called intermediate tracks (1.5-miles in length) led to the love for road courses by many people. The jury is still out on whether the Charlotte ROVAL will fill the bill, but it is very clear that NASCAR is trying to give the public what they want.
The Toyota / Save Mart 350 will start at 3:00 PM on Sunday. Practice will be at 11:40 and 2:40 Friday and qualifying will start at 11:45 on Saturday. Let’s hope the fans get what they want. It should be a good show in front of a good crowd.