The NASCAR Cup Series continues on this week as it visits Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The 1.99 mile road course has been a fixture on NASCAR’s schedule annually since 1989 and serves as one of just several races held west of the Mississippi River on the schedule. Last year’s edition was won by Daniel Suarez, who held off journeymen drivers Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell to pick up his first Cup Series victory and become the first Mexican-born driver to win in the Cup Series.
Driver to Fade:
Making his Cup Series debut today, Grant Enfinger is filling in for Noah Gragson, who suffered a concussion during last week’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway. Enfinger has proven to be a great wheelman down in the Craftsman Truck Series, but he’s been dealt a pretty bad hand this week. Legacy Motor Club has blown chunks all season long, with the 42 car finishing inside the top 20 just twice this season with Gragson behind the wheel and teammate Erik Jones receiving a costly penalty for an illegally modified greenhouse earlier in the week. Enfinger is a feel good story, but will be no threat to sniff the top 20 today.
A perennial favorite anytime the Cup Series races on a road course, Michael McDowell is having a quiet 2023 campaign, with just 2 top 10 finishes thus far. McDowell is a road course ringer and has had the recent success to back it up, with 4 top 10 finishes in the 6 road course races last season, highlighted by a 3rd place finish here at Sonoma. McDowell has picked up this week right where he left off here last year, with a 5th place finish in the Practice session and qualifying 3rd for today’s race. McDowell could very well be the upset victory of the season, but his 3rd top 10 finish of the season is 100% coming today.
Another road course ringer, Chris Buescher is having what is arguably his most consistent season to date with RFK Racing, with 2 top 5’s and 6 top 10’s and counting on the year. It’s hard not to give credit to the consistency that Buescher has had on road courses of late, as he has finished in the top 10 in each of the last 6 road course races, including a runner-up finish at Sonoma last year. Buescher showed solid speed during Practice yesterday and will start today’s race from the 7th position. With his momentum, we predict that Buescher will bring home a 7th straight top 10 finish at a road course and that he will be a key player in the hunt all afternoon for the race win.
The true road course king, AJ Allmendinger is always a threat to win any time NASCAR visits a road course. With 13 of his 18 career wins across both the Cup Series and Xfinity Series coming on road courses, it’s tough not to list him as the favorite by default. Driving full-time for Kaulig Racing this season, the results haven’t really been there for Allmendinger this year. Outside of a 6th place finish in the Daytona 500, Allmendinger has been mixing it up mid-pack all year with 9 top 20 finishes. Allmendinger showed speed in Practice yesterday and qualified in 5th place for today’s race. Allmendinger also has some additional momentum after carding a runner-up showing in the Xfinity race here yesterday. Currently sitting in 24th place in the Points Standings, Allmendinger is essentially in a must win position to make the Playoffs and we predict that The Dinger will call his shot with a victory at Sonoma!