This weekend, NASCAR renews its yearly visit to Sonoma Raceway, located in the Napa Valley region of the San Francisco Bay Area,C for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. This is NASCAR’s sole visit to California this year, as Auto Club Speedway in Southern California opted out of hosting a race.
NASCAR and road courses used to be an uneasy mix, with many drivers feeling utterly lost at the prospect of turning right as well as left. It was not uncommon to see mid- and lower tier teams employ ‘road course ringers’ whenever a road course appeared on the schedule, the term applied to road course specialists albeit in other racing series who in theory would turn in a better result than the team’s regular driver. This has gone by the wayside in recent years even as the on-track aggression levels have increased to the point where now one sees as much old fashioned beatin’ and bangin’ as is the case at a short track. Sonoma may be in the heart of wine country, but the racing action is pure moonshine.
Sonoma used to be one of the more dilapidated tracks on the circuit. How well I remember the first time visiting the facility and how, uh, thrilled i was to discover the walkway crossing over the track was an old — and i do mean old — truck trailer with about the only thing keeping the flooring from disintegrating was the termites holding hands. Some years ago the track owners poured some serious coin into all areas, the end result being a beautiful facility with equally beautiful facilities for teams to work on their cars. The only regret about Sonoma is that by the time NASCAR visits in June the grass surrounding the track has died, for if the race were run in the spring it would be amid lush green gently rolling hills.
Due to the course layout and size, there is no one single vantage point where a fan can view the entire course. Most congregate in view of Turn Eleven, the final turn before the start/finish line, as it
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