Toyota/Save Mart 350 Preview
The NASCAR drivers take to the road, literally, Sunday when they tackle Sonoma’s road course. The course was originally constructed in 1968 as a 2.52-mile course, but was re-designed in 1998 to the current 1.95 miles, increasing the distance of the event to its current 218.9 miles covering 110 laps. The course, used strictly for NASCAR events, has 10 turns and a ¼-mile drag strip. Since 1998, Jeff Gordon has five wins on this track (1998-2000, 2004 and 2006), while Tony Stewart is the only other driver with multiple wins in this 14-race span, taking the checkered flag in 2001 and 2005.
Drivers to Watch
Jeff Gordon (6/1) – Winning at Sonoma is all about experience, and Gordon certainly has that with five wins, 12 top-5’s and an average finish of 8.7 all-time at this track. Although he hasn’t won this road course since 2006, he continues to run with the front of the pack with finishes of 7th, 3rd, 9th, 5th and 2nd in the past five races here. He’s also coming off his second-best race of the 2012 season, placing sixth at Michigan last weekend.
Kasey Kahne (25/1) – He has been tremendous in qualifying at Sonoma, starting no worse than 8th (including two poles) in his past six starts at this track. And in two of the past three races here, he has capitalized on his envious starting position, winning the race in 2009 and finishing fourth in 2010. Although Kahne has posted poor finishes in his past two races this season (29th and 33rd), don’t forget his streak of seven straight top-10’s that preceded this mini-slump.
Jimmie Johnson (6/1) – After a pedestrian 20.6 average finish in his first five starts on this road course, Johnson has figured out how to navigate Sonoma placing 4th, 1st and 7th in his past three races at this track. And with the roll he has been on recently with top-6 finishes (two wins) in seven of his past nine starts, Johnson is always worthy of a small wager, no matter what the odds.
Matt Kenseth (100/1) – Yes, a road course is a completely different beast than the typical race tracks on the NASCAR circuit, but you have to put down a unit wager on the current points leader receiving an insane 100-to-1 payout. In each of Kenseth’s past 10 races this season, he has finished no worse than 11th, carting an impressive 5.6 average finish. And he has competed better at Sonoma recently with a pair of top-15 finishes (8th in 2008, 14th last year) in his past four starts here.
Kurt Busch (40/1) – The defending champion of this race has been a boom-or-bust candidate at this course in his career with four top-5 finishes and six results outside of the top-20 in his 11 Sonoma starts. He’s in the midst of a dreadful season, currently sitting 27th in the points standings because of just one top-12 finish all year (9th at Auto Club 400).
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