Tag Archives: Sonoma Raceway

Jeff Gordon and Team Will Put it Together at Sonoma

Last week NASCAR was at the large two mile Michigan International Speedway for some very fast D shaped oval racing where Jeff Gordon led 36 laps but fell victim to the pit strategy of his teammate Jimmie Johnson. This week NASCAR and Jeff Gordon visit a much different speedway. This week is the first road course race of the season at Sonoma Raceway.

The Sonoma Raceway is in Sonoma, California and is a 12 turn road course that is 1.99 miles in length. Road courses are all but impossible to describe in words. The race is 110 laps, 218.9 miles or 350 Kilometers.

Every road course race win requires a great driver who can out brake and out corner the other drivers. It also requires a team that can perform flawlessly since any loss of track position in the pits is terminal. If a team can put that together they also need great pit strategy. The crew chief literally runs the race backwards in his head to figure out what lap would be the earliest they can pit the last time. Then they make their bed, pit and stay out regardless of if a caution flag flies or not. This is where races are won or lost.

Historical driver ratings are a great way to dial into the driver that will do well at any particular race. Road course races are no exception. This week the top of the driver ratings is Marcos Ambrose with a rating of 108.0 followed by Kurt Busch 107.8, Tony Stewart 102.4, Jeff Gordon 101.6, Jimmie Johnson 97.3. Also add in Clint Bowyer at 95.2. Juan Pablo Montoya is not entered into the race.

Each and every one of those drivers would be a great pick to win this race but since you can’t pick them all how do you sort them out? Winning this race requires a great team, not just a great driver, so we need to look deeper. We just so happen to have come from the last three races (Dover, Pocono, Michigan) that sometimes get settled by pit strategy similar to that required at a road course.

The average finish of our selected drivers the past three weeks are Marcos Ambrose 21.6, Kurt Busch 11.3, Tony Stewart 10.3, Jeff Gordon 9.66, Jimmie Johnson 2.66, and Clint Bowyer 8.33.

This is where Jeff Gordon has the edge over everyone except Jimmie Johnson. His low average finish and high driver rating shows he and his team have the edge. He also leads all drivers in wins at Sonoma with five. Only Tony Stewart comes close with two wins.

“I grew up in Vallejo – which is a few miles from the track in Sonoma – but I was always racing on ovals or dirt tracks as a kid. It was much later before I turned my first lap at Sonoma while in a driving school preparing for my first Cup start there.” Gordon added, “I immediately saw the challenges and the fun of racing at Sonoma and on road courses. We’ve worked hard as a team to be competitive on road courses and we’ve had a lot of success at Sonoma. But it’s not an easy track to conquer.

We started the season with there being talk about Jeff Gordon retiring, but the reality is Gordon isn’t driving like he is going to retire. He is having one of the best seasons he has had in a long time. He currently leads the standings in points and has already won a race and will be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Look for Gordon to be the first repeat winner at Sonoma in nine years.

If you cannot get to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, it will be broadcast on TNT Sunday, June 22nd at 2 PM ET. Green Flag is 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 287292 Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Sonoma
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 108.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 107.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 102.4
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 97.3
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 95.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 88.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 88.0
Carl Edwards………………………… 86.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.