2018 Sonoma Raceway, Toyota / Save Mart 350

The series took a week off after a Michigan race mostly dominated by Kevin Harvick once again, but won by his teammate, Clint Bowyer, when the rains came and washed away the full distance after a lengthy wait to dry the track to get the race started. I have no doubt that if the race would have run its entire distance, Mr. Harvick would have picked up his sixth win of the season.

TOYOTA/SAVE MART 350

So, the series and drivers head back out west to the Sonoma Raceway for the running of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. This is the first road course on the schedule, and I think we will see some of the drivers you don’t get to hear much about competing for a win this coming weekend.

In years past we used to see some teams hire road course specialists to run their cars for drivers who weren’t that adept at running on these courses so the owners could accumulate owner points. That is really not the case anymore. Recently those so called road course specialists that are entered haven’t done very well because frankly, they don’t have the cars or the teams to make that happen.

Matt Kenseth has signed to drive ten more races this season in the #6 car replacing Trevor Bayne once again beginning at Kentucky in the middle of July. The entry list isn’t out yet for the race this week as of this writing and Bayne is supposedly going to run this race in the #6, but we might want to wait and see if one of these specialist gets hired for this race. If so, and I am thinking maybe Boris Said, he might be a good choice in the C group of the Driver Group Game. The entry list will be out on Tuesday, so keep your eye on it.

Denny Hamlin: I am going to pick Denny Hamlin to win his first race at Sonoma this weekend. If he doesn’t make a mistake by speeding on pit road, which at this course would be unforgivable, I think he will pull it off. Early in his career he struggled here, but the last two years he has finished second and fourth here and led quite a few laps in each race. I think he takes that next step and is your winner this weekend.

Kevin Harvick: Kevin did win this race last year and has been very good here in his last four starts especially with three straight top ten finishes and in his race here four years ago he led twenty-three laps before coming away with a twentieth place finish in that race. This isn’t a race of speed, but more of handling. There are few places to really pass other drivers and you can’t afford to make a mistake here and Kevin has shown he doesn’t make many of those anywhere.

Kyle Busch: Kyle leads all active drivers with two wins at Sonoma. His last win came three years ago and he has finished in the top ten in the last three races here. He didn’t lead a lot of laps here the last two years, but he did lead laps in each of those races which is significant at this track and in this race which is only 110-laps long. You can’t go from the back to the front without a lot of strategy here, so you better start towards the front and stay towards the front if you want to contend.

Brad Keselowski: Other than his first race he ever ran at this track, Brad has finished every lap here since then. He is always competitive at the road course events and came away with a third place finish here last season. He also led seventeen laps in that race. He is looking for his first win of the season and he is going to do everything he can to compete for that win here once again this weekend.

Clint Bowyer: Last week’s winner has won at Sonoma in the past and has some of the most impressive stats here. If you take away the first race he ever ran here and the race he ran with HScott Motorsports two years ago when he had an electrical problem, he has finished in the top ten in nine of those other ten races. That is unreal. He finished second here last year. Look for him to try his best to win his third race of the season and second in a row.

Ryan Newman: While he is a long shot to win this weekend, Ryan has been pretty good here throughout his career. Granted, he has only led laps in one of his sixteen races here he has finished in the top twenty in fifteen of those races and has an average finish here of 12.5. This week you want drivers on your team who have shown how consistent they can be on this track and Ryan is one of the most consistent here.

Joey Logano: Joey is another driver I don’t really think about until I do my research when it comes to the road course events. Once I look at the statistics he looks pretty good to me. If you eliminate the first two races he has ever run here, you see he has finished in the top ten in four of the other seven and his worst finish in that stretch is sixteenth. Someone you might want to take a chance on this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson: Although he isn’t having the best start to his season, this driver and team seem to be getting better each and every week. I think that when it comes to the road course races you can throw out the stats you had the rest of the season. This is a whole different kind of racing and is more about the driver than the car. With one win, nine top ten finishes and and average finish of 12.5. Jimmie is another driver you could put on your roster this weekend.

Kurt Busch: Kurt is another driver who has been the model of consistency here over his career. He has one win, seven top five and nine top ten finishes in seventeen starts here which gives him an average finish of 14.1. In his last seven starts here he has only finished outside of the top ten once and that finish was still a twelfth. He is someone you want on your roster this weekend and is a reason why I was saving starts for him until this race.

A.J. Allmendiger: This is your road course specialist is there is one who is a regular in the Cup series. His stats don’t tell the whole story about how good he can really be here. Only two top ten finishes in nine races here. Average finish 22.4. Three of his last four finishes have been worse than thirtieth. Yet he is someone you might want to consider having on your team. He has started in the top ten and led laps in each of those four races. If not for bad luck he would have been there to compete for the win at the end of each of those races. Can you say dark horse?

DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR SONOMA RACEWAY

Driver Group Game Group A

  • Denny Hamlin
  • Jimmie Johnson

Driver Group Game Group B

  • Kurt Busch
  • Clint Bowyer
  • Ryan Newman
  • A.J. Allmendinger

Driver Group Game Group C

  • William Byron
  • Chris Buescher

MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT SONOMA RACEWAY

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Clint Bowyer
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Kurt Busch

Dark Horse: A.J. Allmendinger

Stay Away From: Erik Jones

Big 18: A.J. Allmendinger

67 thoughts on “2018 Sonoma Raceway, Toyota / Save Mart 350

    1. McMurray is another good choice. He always seems to run well here, but gets too aggressive sometimes and that will cost him once in a while. Daniel Suarez is another good option also.

    1. 17.3 average finish in 10 starts. Allmendinger is someone to take a chance on. Suarez should be good here too.

    1. McDowell has an average finish of 27th in six starts here. It seems he runs well but always gets in a wreck somewhere along the way.

      As for Kahne, he is a wildcard this year. Runs good on the road courses, but they can be hard on equipment. Does this team have what it takes mechanically is the question for me. I don’t really have the answer to that either.

  1. I think my line up will look something like this… 2-11-14 & 41 as top 4 starters… torn between the 19-31&47 as final starter & Garage driver? which of those 3 would you start & garage?

    1. I would go with Kurt here. Great equipment and he is always good on the road courses. Chase doesn’t really have a long track record on this type of track, so I would stay away from him and AJ doesn’t necessarily have the best equipment.

    1. I would definitely go with McMurray. He has run well here in his 15 starts compared to the 2 starts each of the other 2 drivers have here. I would go with the experience on this track.

  2. my league opened up today & I have been trying to make my picks & for some reason it won’t let me! a few others are having the same issue while a few others are able to make their picks! Is anyone else have or have had this issue before?

    1. Give it another try today and let me know if you are still having issues and I will contact the site administrator for you. Sorry about that.

  3. How do you think Bowman will run there? I know we haven’t seen any practice times or qualifying speeds, but Dale Jr. ran pretty well here the last few years (last five races produced finishes of 6-7-11-3-12 , average of 7.8 in that span)

    1. He ran 1 Xfinity race here and finished 13th. Ran 1 Xfinity race at Road America and finished 24th. He ran 2 Cup races and finished 29th and 31st. I think Byron is a better choice. In Xfinity he finished 10th at the Glen and 6th at Road America. I think he will do well in a Cup car too.

  4. I’m in second place in our fantasy league just 15points Behind the leader I need a win and I thought Clint Boyer for Sonoma ??

    1. If you are talking the Driver Group Game, I like Kurt Busch and Bowyer. If it is an overall winner I like Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

    1. Although Johnson hasn’t shown a lot of speed this year we can throw that out on this track. He would be my number one of these three, followed by McMurray and then Elliott. McMurray has more experience on this type of track and has a very good average finish at Sonoma in his career.

  5. So if u are not saving on a certain A driver,sounds like your A drivers would be the #11,& #18,is this the way u would go ??And also u gotta be going off of the #48 average finishes here,not because of the way he’s been running thus far this year, even though last couple of weeks there’s been improvement 4 sure.like to hear your thoughts and response,thks!!!

    1. I only have 10 starts left between the 4 and 18, so I am saving starts there kind of. I believe the 11 will win this week and the 48 doesn’t need speed as much as a good handling car on this track and I believe they will have that and run very well all weekend and I can use him if the 11 stumbles in practice.

  6. My league allows me to use drivers as often as I want, must pick 8 drivers and stay within salary cap, prices reset for driver salaries every 4 races.

    My preliminary picks for Sonoma are 41-22-48-14-1-21-31-95. Will be closet watching practices and qualifying and definitely 10 lap average speeds, before making my final picks.

  7. 2 questions… #1- with both practices In who do you like for the pole? I put the 41 on the pole when my league opened on Tuesday & he was fastest in 2nd practice…

    #2- I have 2-11-14-19-41 as starters & 31 in the garage! Would you swap any of these guys out for the #1 of Jamie Mac who ran 4th fastest in both practice sessions? Thanks for the advice!

    1. Either Busch or Hamlin for the pole and I would swap McMurray for Newman because Newman wasn’t fast in either practice.

    1. I dropped Newman and added McMurray in B and dropped Byron and added McDowell in C. Still looking to start Hamlin, Busch, and Bowyer. Will decide on my C driver after qualifying.

      1. Hamlin on my roster in A as well as Kurt and Clint in B. Buescher and mcdowell in c.

        Harvick is so strong in long runs, its tempting go ahead and start him . Gamble of course so i have Truex . Any concerns with him after practice contact?
        300 point lead in my league.

  8. Hamlin on my roster in A as well as Kurt and Clint in B. Buescher and mcdowell in c.

    Harvick is so strong in long runs, its tempting go ahead and start him . Gamble of course so i have Truex . Any concerns with him after practice contact?
    300 point lead in my league.

  9. Qualifying surprised me.
    Harvick, Hamlin
    Mcmurray, Dinger, Bowyer, Busch
    Buescher, Mcdowell

    RIGHT NOW i have Harvick, mcmurray, Bowyer, Buescher

    Your thoughts?

    1. I think a lot of your starters depend on how many starts you have left for them. I myself only have 4 starts left for Harvick so I am sticking with Hamlin. Allmendinger and McMurray in B and Buescher in C. Toss up between Buescher and McDowell.

    1. Sure he can. IMO, It’s much easier to run these road courses with stages. Although your Harvick pick still seems to be the better choice.

      1. I think bowyer and busch went out too early. Mcmurray backed up his practice. Torn as to who to start in b. Dinger usually has bad luck

  10. Jeff I haven’t had much time to do any research or watch anything this week. What is your starting lineup? Thanks

    1. I would go with Hamlin even though he has a worse starting position that Logano. In the final practice Logano was slow and never did a long run and Hamlin did. In that 10-lap run Hamlin was 6th fastest out of all the driver that made 10-lap runs. Secondly, Hamlin has finished 2nd and 4th here in his last 2 races and has won a race and finished 4th in his other start at the last 2 races at Watkins Glen, which is the other road-course on the schedule that drivers have run on.

    1. Allmendinger has always been better at Watkins Glen than he has at Sonoma. His only win came at the Glen, but he has been fast all weekend. I guess it is a toss up to me. Sorry, but go with your gut instinct.

  11. how do you like the stages playing out? it’s hard to go against the 4 but 78 has been better thus far this weekend! I have 78 winning stage 1. 18 Winning stage 2 & 11 Winning the race! Even though the Chevys actually look pretty good so far I have Toyotas all the way!

    1. Stage racing is a total guess. I would start with one of the drivers on the front row for stage 1 and then just make a guess for stage 2 and then go with your race winner at the end.

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