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NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Sonoma Raceway

Busch’s bid for a third title seems more and more likely

For the first time since 2010-2011, the Richard Childress Racing organization has put up back-to-back seasons (2022-2023) of at least three NASCAR Cup Series wins. Over the last two years, the one common denominator in the RCR Victory Lane celebrations has been crew chief Randall Burnett, who has led Tyler Reddick to three wins in 2022, and now has led veteran Kyle Busch to three wins this season.

With Busch, Burnett and the No. 8 team off to a fast start this season, racking up more wins and logging Playoff points in the hunt for a title is no doubt the focus going forward.

Kyle Busch hasn’t put up three or more wins in a single season since 2019. If Busch were to score his third title this season, he would continue to be the only active driver with multiple titles and just the 10th driver all-time to collect three or more titles – the nine other drivers to accomplish the feat are all NASCAR Hall of Famers.

Drivers with Three or More Cup Series Championships (1949-2023)
RankNo. of TitlesDriverYears
17Jimmie Johnson2016, ‘13, ’10, ‘09, ‘08, ‘07, ‘06
Dale Earnhardt1994, ’93, ‘91, ‘90, ‘87, ‘86, ‘80
Richard Petty1979, ‘75, ‘74, ‘72, ‘71, ‘67, ‘64
44Jeff Gordon2001, ‘98, ‘97, ‘95
53Tony Stewart2011, ‘05, ‘02
Darrell Waltrip1985, ‘82, ‘81
Cale Yarborough1978, ‘77, ‘76
David Pearson1969, ‘68, ‘66
Lee Petty1959, ‘58, ‘54
* Nine total three or more NASCAR Cup Series championships

Though Richard Childress Racing is tied with Junior Johnson & Associates for the third most driver and owner NASCAR Cup Series championships with six each, RCR hasn’t won a title since 1994. Kyle Busch won his previous two championships with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015 and 2019.

Don’t count out the No. 8 team this weekend either, Kyle Busch has made 17 series starts at Sonoma Raceway posting two wins (2008, 2015), six top fives and eight top 10s.

California’s Sonoma Raceway is up next for the NASCAR Cup Series

Get out your wine glasses and corkscrews out, it’s time to head to Sonoma, California, the wine capital of the United States, for the NASCAR Cup Series race, the Toyota / Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This weekend’s race will be the 16th of the 2023 season and the second of six road courses on the schedule this year (COTA, Sonoma, Road America, Indianapolis RC, Watkins Glen and Charlotte ROVAL). 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick took the first road course victory of the year at Circuit of The Americas back in March. Now, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway to battle it out on the challenging 1.99-mile, multi-elevational road course for the 34th time in series history.

Sonoma Raceway was opened as a 2.52-mile, multi-elevational paved road course and drag strip in 1968. Over the course of its existence, the 12-turn facility has held a few different names – Sears Point Raceway, Sears Point International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway prior to being renamed Sonoma Raceway.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway was held on June 11, 1989, and was won by Ricky Rudd driving a Buick for car owner Kenny Bernstein. Rudd ran the race at an average speed of 76.088 mph and led 61 of 74 scheduled laps (82.4%).

Over the years, the format and track configuration has changed at Sonoma Raceway. The first nine NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma were 300 kilometers and then switched to a 350k format in 1998. The track was reconfigured to 1.949-miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7. The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.

In 2019 and 2021, the track was reconfigured back to the original 2.52-mile configuration with races being 90 laps – 226.8 miles. Then last season, Sonoma Raceway returned the track configuration back to the 1.99-mile configuration with the return of the ‘chute’.

There have been 33 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season – until the 2020 season. Due to the pandemic, the series did not compete at Sonoma Raceway in 2020.

The 33 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway have produced 18 different pole winners and 21 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon leads the series in both poles (five: 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005) and wins (five: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006) at Sonoma Raceway.

Of the 18 different pole winners at Sonoma, three are active this weekend, led by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson with four poles (2017, 2018, 2019, 2022).

Active Sonoma Pole WinnersPolesSeasons
Kyle Larson42022, 2019, 2018, 2017
AJ Allmendinger12015
Joey Logano12011

And five of the 21 different Cup Series Sonoma Raceway winners are active this weekend, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. with three wins (2013, 2018, 2019).

Active Sonoma Race WinnersWinsSeasons
Martin Truex Jr32019, 2018, 2013
Kyle Busch22015, 2008
Daniel Suárez12022
Kyle Larson12021
Kevin Harvick12017

All the on-track action begins for the NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, June 10 from 5-7 p.m. ET with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on FS2.

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350

The Place: Sonoma Raceway

The Date: Sunday, June 11

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

The Purse: $8,054,721

TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 218.9 miles (110 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 55), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 110)


Road course aces to watch for in California this weekend

Arriving this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series has baker’s dozen (13) of former road course winners entered in the Toyota / Save Mart 350 (Sunday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and five of them are looking for their first win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season – Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, Ross Chastain and defending Sonoma winner Daniel Suárez.

Three new drivers were added to the NASCAR Cup Series road course winners list last season; including 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who earned two road course wins last season driving for Richard Childress Racing at Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, and also Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain, who won his first career Cup Series race at Circuit of The Americas, and Daniel Suárez, who earned his first career Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway.

“It was such a crazy day and I had so many thoughts in my head,” said Daniel Suárez reflecting on last year’s Sonoma win. “I mean, it was a rough road getting to Victory Lane, but that moment was so worth it. Not just for me but for my family, Julia, these guys believe in me – Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me to get to this point. A lot of people in Mexico – Jay Morales and Carlos Slim. My family, they never give up on me. A lot of people did, but they didn’t. I was just very happy we were able to make it work.”

Active Road Course Winners (13)Total WinsSonomaWGICharlotteDaytonaIndyCOTARoad America
Chase Elliott70221011
Kyle Busch42200000
Martin Truex Jr43100000
Kyle Larson41210000
Tyler Reddick30000111
Kevin Harvick21100000
AJ Allmendinger20100100
Christopher Bell20011000
Joey Logano10100000
Ryan Blaney10010000
Denny Hamlin10100000
Daniel Suárez11000000
Ross Chastain10000010

Of the five former road course winners entered this weekend looking for their first win of the season, Chase Elliott will most likely have the biggest spotlight focused on him on Sunday. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Elliott, has been sidelined twice this season from injury (six races) and suspension (one race) and returns this week needing a win to make the Playoffs this season. Elliott leads all active drivers in road course wins with seven (Watkins Glen, two wins; Charlotte ROVAL, two wins; Road America, one win; COTA, one win).

“For me personally, just looking forward to getting back to work and just trying to get in a groove because I don’t really feel like I’ve been in one throughout the year,” Elliott said. “It’s been kind of stop-and-go all season, unfortunately. But the way I see it is there’s 11 races left, and we pretty much need to go win one of those to get in (the Playoffs). So that’s where my head’s at right now.”

Though Elliott hasn’t won at Sonoma, he has made six series starts posting two top fives and four top 10s. His average finish at Sonoma is 13.3. Plus, he has some stout pre-race Loop Data stats as well – Average Running Position (11.474, second-best), Driver Rating (97.6, second-best), Fastest Laps Run (27, eighth-best), and Laps in the Top 15 (410 laps, 65.9%, 11th-most).

Though Elliott undoubtedly will be a force to contend with this weekend, the remaining four drivers that are former road course winners looking for their first win of 2023 are nothing to sneeze at.

Defending Sonoma winner, Daniel Suárez, has made five series starts at Sonoma posting one win and average finish of 12.2 – best among active drivers with more than one start. Suárez has also led 47 laps on the 1.99-mile track.

Suárez’s Trackhouse Racing teammate Ross Chastain has made three starts at Sonoma posting two top-10 finishes, including a seventh-place finish in last season’s race.

Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger is always a contender for the win when the NASCAR Cup Series competes on road courses. Allmendinger not only has a two Cup Series road course wins, but he also has the all-time most road course wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with 11 of 16 career wins coming on road courses. Allmendinger has made 11 series starts at Sonoma posting two top-10 finishes.

Last but not least, is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick who will be competing at Sonoma Raceway for the final time this weekend, as Harvick has announced his retirement from full-time racing at the end of the season. In his illustrious career, Harvick has already put up two road course wins in the NASCAR Cup Series; including one at Sonoma Raceway in 2017, and one at Watkins Glen International in 2006. In total, Harvick has made 21 series starts at Sonoma putting up one win, seven top fives and 11 top 10s.

Defending Sonoma winner Daniel Suárez looking to go back-to-back

Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez returns to Sonoma Raceway to defend his last season win and try to become just the third driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win consecutive races at Sonoma; joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (three straight: 1998, ’99, ‘00) and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. (2018, ’19).

Suárez, from Monterrey, Mexico, became just the second driver in the NASCAR Cup Series to earn his first career win in the series at Sonoma Raceway, joining Bogota, Columbia native Juan Pablo Montoya (2007).

“Every time we head to a road course, whether it’s Sonoma (Raceway), or somewhere else, I am excited,” said Suárez. “I feel at home, and I am excited to go back to a place where we had great memories last time and hopefully, we can repeat it.”

Last season, Suárez led 47 of the 110 scheduled laps (42.7%) at Sonoma and won the NASCAR Cup Series race from the eighth starting position. With the victory Suárez became one of 41 different drivers all-time to have won in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

Keep an eye on the No. 99 on Sunday. In five series starts at Sonoma, Suárez has put up one win (2022) and an average finish of 12.2 – the best among active drivers with more than one start.

NASCAR will run the Road Course and Selected Short Track Package at Sonoma

NASCAR has announced this season updates to the components of the NASCAR Cup Series car for races held at road courses and short tracks (excluding Bristol and Dover). The Road Course and Selected Short Track Package will consist of the following:

  1. 2” Spoiler
  2. Remove Engine Panel Strakes
  3. Remove Center and Inner Diffuser Strakes. Only the Outer Diffuser Strakes will remain installed. Spacers will be installed between the diffuser flap and diffuser due to removing the inner diffuser strakes.
  4. Remove Diffuser Fences and Replace with Baseline Fences.
  5. Splitter stuffers will remain unchanged from the current components.

The rules are in place at the following tracks: Charlotte Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of The Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, Richmond, Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

Playoff Bubble Shuffle: Chastain loses points lead, Bowman outside Playoff cutoff looking in

While Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch was grabbing his third win of the season last weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway, several positions on the Playoff bubble started to shuffle. One of the biggest moves from last week, was the winless Ross Chastain losing the points lead and his guaranteed spot in the postseason. With Chastain dropping to fourth and Ryan Blaney taking the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead already having a win this season, it has opened-up an additional spot for drivers to get in on wins or points. Heading to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, six spots are up for grabs in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The 10 drivers that have earned a spot in the Playoffs by virtue of wins this season are William Byron, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The six drivers currently occupying the remaining postseason spots on points are 11. Kevin Harvick (+166 points ahead of cutoff), 12. Ross Chastain (+159), 13. Brad Keselowski (+96), 14. Chris Buescher (+86), 15. Bubba Wallace (+27) and 16. Daniel Suárez (+6).

Falling one spot to 17th after a 26th-place finish at Word Wide Technology Raceway last weekend, Alex Bowman is six points back from defending Sonoma Raceway winner, Daniel Suárez in 16th – the final transfer spot on points to the Playoffs. Not far behind Bowman is rookie Ty Gibbs in 18th in the Playoff outlook, 15 points back from Suárez.

Currently five drivers that made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs last season are below the cutline this year – Alex Bowman (17th, -6 points), Austin Cindric (19th, -33 points), Chase Elliott (27th, -98 points), Austin Dillon (29th, -113 points), and Chase Briscoe (31st, -138 points).

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Milestone Watch: Harvick to surpass Gordon on all-time starts list – Currently tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon for ninth on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time starts list with 805 starts each, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will surpass Gordon this weekend at Sonoma Raceway and solely move into the ninth position with 806 starts – just three starts behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip in eighth with 809 starts. Harvick leads all drivers in NASCAR national series starts entering this weekend with 1,278 career starts.

Additional upcoming milestones to watch for over the next few weeks are. …

The manufacturer Toyota is just four races away from the 1,000th NASCAR national series event for the Toyota Camry (591 Cup, 405 Xfinity). The 1,000th Camry start will be Atlanta in July.

Bubba Wallace – 200th start at Nashville Superspeedway – June 25

William Byron – 200th start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – July 16

Chase Briscoe – 100th start at Kansas Speedway II – Sept. 10

Justin Haley – 100th start at Kansas Speedway II – Sept. 10

Ryan Blaney – 300th start at Texas Motor Speedway – Sept. 24

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 400th start Phoenix Raceway II – Nov. 5

Actor, Comedian Adam Devine named Grand Marshal for Sonoma – Sonoma Raceway is thrilled to announce that popular actor and comedian Adam Devine will be the Grand Marshal for the highly anticipated Toyota/Save Mart 350 on June 11, 2023. Devine, known for his irresistible energy seen in Pitch Perfect, will bring his unique charisma to the iconic Sonoma Raceway as he takes on the prestigious role of Grand Marshal. As Grand Marshal, Devine will give the command to start engines, igniting the thrilling race that awaits. With his magnetic personality and love for motorsports, Devine is the perfect choice to set the tone for an exhilarating day of NASCAR Cup Series racing at Sonoma Raceway.

“We are thrilled to have Adam Devine join us as the Grand Marshal for the Toyota/Save Mart 350,” said Jill Gregory, executive vice president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. “His infectious enthusiasm and vibrant presence will add to the electric atmosphere that we offer to both fans and competitors at our events.”

Devine can next be seen in the Netflix action-comedy film The Out-Laws, also starring Pierce Brosnan, Ellen Barkin and Nina Dobrev, released on July 7.

Country Music rising star Tiffany Woys to perform national anthem at Sonoma – Sacramento Native and Country Music Television’s “Next Up Now” artist Tiffany Woys will perform the national anthem for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 11 at Sonoma Raceway.

Woys, recently named a Taste of Country “Artist to Watch” is no stranger to entertaining NASCAR fans. The Northern California native previously performed the national anthem at Darlington Raceway.

Her most recent radio single, “I Don’t Want You Back” is Tiffany’s sixth charted song on Billboard’s National Country Radio Indicator Chart.

WWE Superstar Braun Strowman to pilot pace car at Sonoma – WWE Superstar and former strongman Adam Scherr, aka Braun Strowman, will serve as the honorary pace car driver for the upcoming Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Series race on June 11. Known not only for his strength but also his larger-than-life persona, Strowman will bring his showmanship to a new arena as he enters the high-octane world of NASCAR.

On June 11, he will buckle into a new role as he leads the field of 36 drivers through the pace laps to the green flag of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 after being recognized on the pre-race stage.

Kamui Kobayashi, to Make NASCAR Debut at Indianapolis Road Course for 23XI Racing – Toyota and 23XI Racing announced that famed Toyota Gazoo Racing driver and WEC (World Endurance Championship) team principal, Kamui Kobayashi will make his NASCAR debut in the No. 67 Toyota at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on August 13.

“NASCAR is something different in the culture of motorsports compared to Japan and Europe – as a driver, it’s the American dream,” said Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota Gazoo Racing driver and WEC team principal. “I was lucky to be able to race in IMSA the last couple of years. It’s a different form of racing, but I think the racing technology is at a high level. I really appreciate this opportunity from TRD, U.S.A. and of course Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Gazoo Racing. Toyota has been racing in NASCAR for a long time, but I don’t think any other Japanese driver has raced a Toyota in the Cup Series.  I’m very proud of this opportunity.”

Kobayashi started his racing career karting in Japan and after winning several titles, he won a scholarship to join Toyota’s Young Drivers program and made the transition into single seater race cars. This portion of his career also started in Japan and later into Europe, which led to being hired as Toyota’s Formula 1 driver. In 2008, Toyota signed Kobayashi as their third driver resulting in his debut during the 2009 season at the Brazilian GP. Kobayashi was active until 2014 in the highest level of racing in the world, Formula 1. Following his Formula 1 career, Kobayashi returned to Japan where he switched to the Supra Formula Series, a class he still actively competes in today. Kobayashi also competed as part of the IMSA Series for the Lexus Racing program in 2022 at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when he filled in for the injured Jack Hawksworth. Kobayashi is now a driver and team principal with the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).

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