Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, CA — June 11, 2023
This week it’s back to a road course as the NASCAR Cup Series visits Sonoma, California, for the 16th race of the 2023 season and the second of six road courses on the schedule this year (COTA, Sonoma, Road America, Indianapolis RC, Watkins Glen, and Charlotte ROVAL).
Tyler Reddick, of Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing, took the first road course victory of the year at Circuit of The Americas back in March. Now, the Cup drivers will battle it out on the challenging 1.99-mile, multi-elevational road course for the 34th time in series history.
Sonoma Raceway was opened as a 2.52-mile, multi-elevational paved road course and drag strip in 1968. Over the course of its existence, the 12-turn facility has held a few different names – Sears Point Raceway, Sears Point International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway prior to being renamed Sonoma Raceway.
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway was held on June 11, 1989, and was won by Ricky Rudd, driving for car owner Kenny Bernstein. Rudd ran the race at an average speed of 76.088 mph and led 61 of 74 scheduled laps (82.4%).
Over the years, the format and track configuration has changed at Sonoma Raceway. The first nine NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma were 300 kilometers, and then switched to a 350k format in 1998. The track was reconfigured to 1.949 miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7. The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.
In 2019 and 2021, the track was reconfigured back to the original 2.52-mile configuration, with races being 90 laps – 226.8 miles. Then last season, Sonoma Raceway returned the track configuration back to the 1.99-mile configuration with the return of the “chute.”
There have been 33 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season – until the 2020 season. Due to the pandemic, the series did not compete at Sonoma Raceway in 2020.
|Active Sonoma Race Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Martin Truex Jr||3||2019, 2018, 2013|
|Kyle Busch||2||2015, 2008|
|Active Road Course Winners (13)||Total Wins||Sonoma||WGI||Charlotte||Daytona||Indy||COTA||Road America|
|Martin Truex Jr||4||3||1||0||0||0||0||0|
Of the five former road course winners entered this weekend looking for their first win of the season, Chase Elliott will most likely have the biggest spotlight focused on him on Sunday.
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Elliott, has been sidelined twice this season from injury (six races) and suspension (one race) and returns this week needing a win to make the Playoffs this season. Elliott leads all active drivers in road course wins with seven (Watkins Glen, two wins; Charlotte ROVAL, two wins; Road America, one win; COTA, one win). He starts 10th today.
Denny Hamlin is on the pole for today’s race, and Tyler Reddick joins him in the front row. They will race for 219.8 miles, 110 laps divided into 25/30/55 laps. NASCAR continues its road course format established this year with no caution at the end of Stages.
Denny Hamlin(11) got a big jump at the start, and Christopher Bell(20) followed him past Tyler Reddick(45) into second place on lap one. Martin Truex Jr.(19) ran fourth, and Ty Gibbs (54) held down the fifth spot early.
Daniel Suarez(99) made a serious mistake on lap one, downshifting into first, possibly mixing up the shift pattern with the Next Gen car’s inline shifter with the four-speed H-pattern he ran in yesterday’s Xfinity race. Over-revving the engine and possibly doing damage that could appear later in the race.
With no Stage ending caution, pit stop strategy could be based on who needs Stage points and who can afford to sacrifice them to position themselves for a late race run at the win.
Truex worked his way to second mid-way through the first Stage, and AJ Allmendinger(16) joined the top five. Out front, Hamlin built almost a four-second lead over Truex.
Stage One Results
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||9|
|8||54||Ty Gibbs #||3|
|10||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||1|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The leaders pitted shortly after the end of Stage One, and Hamlin was able to return to the lead spot. Chase Elliott(9) was the big winner during the sequence, advancing to the third position. Elliott was one of the drivers who pitted before the end of the Stage.
Eight laps into Stage Two, Truex passed Hamlin for the top spot. The first lead change of the race.
With 10 laps to go in Stage Two, Truex led. Followed by Hamlin, Bell, Elliott, and Kyle Larson(5). Pit stops began for those who are on the four-stop strategy. Trying to make the distance on just three stops will require the driver to go well past the end of Stage Two before stopping.
Zane Smith’s(38) crew brought out the first caution flag of the day with an issue on the pit road. After changing the right-side tires, the used Goodyears were rolled to the pit wall. The right front tire was not caught. It bounced off the pit wall, and Smith hit the tire exiting his pit. A loose tire on pit road is considered a safety hazard, so NASCAR displayed the caution to allow a crewmember to rescue the wayward tire/wheel assembly.
Under the caution, all the leaders pitted, scrambling the running order for the restart with two laps to go in the Stage. Kyle Busch(8) led, Joey Logano(22) shut down Ross Chastain(1) to hold second place, William Byron(24) ran fourth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) fifth.
Stage Two Results
|5||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||6|
|7||19||Martin Truex Jr.||4|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Truex was the first of the former leaders to return to the top five when he moved into fifth place on Lap 58. How the three vs four-stop strategies work out remains to be seen.
Michael McDowell(34) ran in the top ten for most of the first half of the race. He joined the top five on lap 61.
Ty Gibbs got into the rear bumper of Austin Dillon(3), causing Dillon to spin off the course. He rejoined the race without the need for a caution.
With 42 laps to go, Truex passed Kyle Busch to move back into the lead. Logano ran third, with McDowell up to fourth and Chastain in the fifth position.
Green flag pit stops began with 37 laps to go. Logano was the first of the leaders to come to pit road. Truex pitted out of the lead a lap later.
Elliott inherited the lead and choose to stay out a little longer. His pit stop came with 30 laps to go. Truex returned to the lead when Elliott pitted. Busch, Logano, Bell, and McDowell were the leaders after all pit stops were completed.
With 19 laps to go, Hamlin bounced off the inside wall and spun on the front stretch, bringing out the second caution of the day. Elliott, Reddick, and Ryan Blaney(12) stayed on the track while the remainder of the field pitted for fresh tires.
Restarting with 15 laps to go, Truex and Busch quickly moved past Reddick. A lap later, the duo passed Elliott. Logano ran fourth and Blaney fifth. Truex is clearly the fastest car on the track. Busch is able to keep him in sight but can not get close enough to attempt a pass. Unless Truex has a problem or makes a mistake.
Truex kept inching ahead of Busch while running away from the remainder of the pack. McDowell tapped Blaney and spun him off the track. He got back to racing without a caution, and a few corners later, Chase Briscoe(14) sent him around again. Worn tires may have contributed to Blaney holding up cars moving forward.
Avoiding potential cautions, Treux could breathe a small sigh of relief. With three laps to go, he led Busch by just over two seconds. Logano, in third, was seven seconds behind the leader.
With his second win of the 2023 season, Treux(age 42) became the 2nd oldest NASCAR road course winner. The oldest? Tony Stewart(age 45) when he won his last NASCAR race as a driver in June of 2016.
|1||William Byron(Points Leader)||512||In Win(3)|
|2||Kyle Busch||496||In Win(3)|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||525||In Win(2)|
|4||Kyle Larson||440||In Win(2)|
|5||Ryan Blaney*||501||In Win|
|6||Christopher Bell||493||In Win|
|7||Denny Hamlin||462||In Win|
|8||Joey Logano*||444||In Win|
|9||Tyler Reddick||420||In Win|
|10||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||400||In Win|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Driver
Race Results from Sonoma Raceway
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||—||109|
|12||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||16.017||109|