2017 Sonoma Raceway, Toyota/Save Mart 350

Congratulations to Kyle Larson who picked up his second win of the season at Michigan last weekend. Larson pretty much dominated this race by starting on the pole and leading the most laps in the race. Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages of the race and came away with a sixth place finish and holds a one point lead over Kyle in the standings.


This week the series heads back to California and the Sonoma Raceway for our first road course race of the season. We can throw out pretty much everything we learned about the teams so far this season as handling and driver skill is going to be more important than speed and power. Track position is also very important here as it is hard to pass and drivers have to have a balance of patience and aggressiveness to know when to fight for a position and when to let someone else go by you before they move you to get by. If they have to move you, you might find yourself spun out.

Clint Bowyer: Clint is my pick to win his first race of the season this week at Sonoma. Clint has one win at this track and has finished in the top ten here an impressive eight times in his eleven starts. Now that he is on a team with more funding and better equipment under him, I think he gets his car back to victory lane for Stewart-Haas Racing this weekend.

Kyle Busch: Kyle leads all active drivers with two wins here with the last of those coming in the 2015 season. This team has come so close all year to winning a race and this might be the weekend they do it. Kyle is one of the best when it comes to handling his car on this type of track. He also knows how to be aggressive and will be one of the hardest drivers to pass this week.

Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie has one win at this track also and has finished in the top ten in nine of his fifteen starts including seven of his last eight. We usually think of Jimmie as a great driver of the intermediate tracks, but these stats show that he is a great road course racer too. He would like nothing more than to pick up his second win here in his home state this weekend.

AJ Allmendinger: Even though he hasn’t run all that well this year, AJ is a great road course racer. This is a good track to use him on as he has the potential to win on this track no matter who he is driving for. He has started on the front row here in each of his last three starts and the only thing that took him out of contention in those races was mechanical issues and poor pit stops late in the race.

Kurt Busch: Kurt is another great road course driver and that shows in his stats. He has one win here and he has also finished in the top five in seven of his sixteen starts. If you can finish in the top five in almost half of your starts at any track it means you really know what you are doing at that track because it isn’t just luck.

Ryan Newman: Ryan is still looking for his first win at this track, but he does run consistently well here. In his career, Ryan has come away with seven top ten finishes in his fifteen starts and this team has looked much better this year on a weekly basis then they have the past couple of seasons. They say he is the toughest driver to pass and this is the track where it is tough to pass in the first place, so that just makes it better for him.

Joey Logano: Joey is another driver who we don’t really think about when it comes to the road courses, but he has finished in the top ten in half of his eight starts at this track. In addition he has led laps in three of those eight starts which tells us he can get his car to the front at some point in the race. He always surprises me with how consistent he really runs here during the races.

Kevin Harvick: Kevin is looking for his first win at this track and his first win of the season. He has finished in the top ten in seven of his sixteen starts at Sonoma with his best finish being second. He also has two third place finishes at this track, so he has been close here in the past and he is really hungry for a win right now and will do anything to pass cars this weekend.

Brad Keselowski: Brad hasn’t run as well at this track as he has run at Watkins Glen, which is the other road course track on the schedule. Still, he really knows how to drive on this type of track and is a good driver to take a chance on here. He doesn’t mind mixing it up with other drivers on the track and that is the attitude you need when running on these tracks.

Kasey Kahne: Kasey has one win at this track and has finished in the top ten in six of his thirteen starts here including top ten finishes in the last four races. Kasey has had some good weeks this season after struggling the past few years. This could be a week where he comes away with another top ten finish and might even surprise us with another win on this track.


Yahoo Driver Group A

  • Kyle Busch
  • Jimmie Johnson

Yahoo Driver Group B

  • Clint Bowyer
  • AJ Allmendinger
  • Kurt Busch
  • Kasey Kahne

Yahoo Driver Group C

  • Billy Johnson
  • Daniel Suarez


  1. Clint Bowyer
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Jimmie Johnson
  4. Kurt Busch
  5. Brad Keselowski

Dark Horse: Jamie McMurray

Stay Away From: Trevor Bayne

Big 18: Kurt Busch

22 thoughts on “2017 Sonoma Raceway, Toyota/Save Mart 350

  1. Happy fathers day to all! Question… is there any c drivers to trust here, or should I save them this week also, like I plan on doing next week perhaps….. ?
    Thanks for all the info.. Great stuff!

    1. McDowell usually runs pretty well on the road courses. It seems if he doesn’t finish well it is because of some mechanical failure. You can watch the entry list that comes out on Tuesday and see if there are any ringers entered. Some of the smaller teams will hire a road course specialist to try and make up some owner points at these races, but they are still in under funded equipment and don’t run real well on a consistent basis.

  2. Other than Suarez and Jones and Dillon, group C drivers to consider would be? McDowell comes to mind, any others? I have to allocate Suarez and Jones.

    1. Like I just told Scott, McDowell runs well here unless he has some mechanical failure and you can check the entry list on Tuesday to see if there are any ringers driving this weekend. Boris Said? Knows how to get around these courses but will be in underfunded equipment if he is entered.

  3. Jeff, how many years of historical data do you consider relevant toward your analysis? My algorhythm seems to fall on it’s face if I use more than (3) years previous. Also seems that, if the race is run at a track more than once (Pocono, Michigan as an example) that I need to look at each visit individually. To be honest, momentum of the current year seems as accurate as looking to the particular race. Including road courses. Thoughts?

        1. Okay, I will elaborate on that a little more. Let’s look at Phoenix for an example. Phoenix was reconfigured in August of 2011. In the 12 races run there since then, Kevin Harvick has won six of them and finished 2nd twice. Before that he had two wins and 8 top ten finishes in 17 trips to the track. So, you can look at it from the standpoint that once this track was reconfigured Kevin has really figures something out. Every track is different so I suggest you look and see when a track was reconfigured last and look at the trends since that time. You should also take into consideration who the driver is running for at certain times in their career and how those teams were performing as a whole during those stretches to get a more accurate idea of who you might want to use. Hope that helps.

  4. What is your thought on Billy Johnson in the 43? Worth putting him on with the 95 as a pair and save the 19 for a 1.5 mile track?

    1. This is exactly what I was talking about when I said watch for someone hiring a ringer for this race. He knows how to drive on these courses and is in good equipment, so he is definitely someone to put on your Yahoo roster.

    1. My instinct tells me no because this is only a part time team so you have a pit crew that isn’t practiced and a crew chief and driver who are both new to the top series.

  5. Howdy Jeff,
    I agree about the poor equipment that the ringers will be racing in. I believe Billy Johnson in the #43 will have the best chance compared to the other ringers. It’s a great thing being able to watch practice before Yahoo locks the Drivers this week.

    These are the Drivers that will be filling in.

    1.) Tommy Regan #15, for Joey Gase
    2.) Alon Day ……..#23, for David Ragan
    3.) Boris Said ……#33, for Jeffery Earnhardt
    4.) Billy Johnson ..#43, for Aric/Darrell
    5.) Josh Bilicki …..#51, for Cody Ware
    Good Luck this week
    Bobby Walsh

  6. I ended up rostering McDowell and Day as my C-drivers. I originally had Billy Johnson, but after practice yesterday, I started getting cold feet about him (I was not impressed). I think he’s too used to those sports cars that do so much for the driver and stick right to the track without sliding around. So I did some research on the Whelen Euro Series, and they’re basically K&N Pro Series cars with a little less horsepower and they run road courses. That beingg said, at this point, I feel like this is more in Alon’s wheelhouse than Billy’s; so long as he can acclimate to the heavier car with more horsepower. Probably will still end up starting McDowell, though, unless Day clicks off a monster qualifying lap.

  7. What do you think of Larson(W), Truex, Kyle B, Harvick, McMurray, Bowyer, Hamlin, Kurt, Earnhardt and Allmendinger(10) as Top 10 prediction?

    1. Everyone was in qualifying trim yesterday so the speeds are very reflective of who should be in the top 5-8. Not an easy track to pass so fuel / pitstop strategy is critical to flipping the field. Fastest cars use the right pit stop strategy = win at Sonoma…. go with your best qualifiers / studs.

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