Mash The Gas: Sonoma Preview

Drivers head to the green on a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. [Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images]

Drivers head to the green on a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. [Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images]

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contests the first road course race of the season Sunday afternoon as the Sonoma Raceway hosts the Save Mart 350.

It’s the first time the Sprint Cup drivers will turn left and right as they tackle the winding Sonoma road course and with just 11 races remaining until the start of the Chase, Sonoma presents an intriguing opportunity for many drivers far back in the point standings to grab a Chase position. Many of the drivers will be out of their element Sunday afternoon at Sonoma and it’s tough to predict a winner but here are some drivers to watch…

Jeff Gordon
It’s his final full-time season and he has yet to score a victory but Sonoma could be just what Jeff Gordon needs as he heads to the California road course as NASCAR’s all time leader in road course victories with nine. Five of those victories occurred at Sonoma and Gordon is listed as a 6-1 favorite for Sunday as his record here also includes 14 top five finishes and 18 top ten results which earns him the second best Driver Rating. Plus, Gordon has finished second at Sonoma in three of the last four years. Also in recent years, Jeff Gordon has been extremely aggressive at the Sonoma track and that could continue Sunday as he tries to capitalize on a great opportunity to break into the win column in 2015.

Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch is also listed as a 6-1 favorite to win the Save Mart 350 on Sunday which may be surprising to some as his record here is average with one win and six top five finishes. Yet, he owns the best driver rating at the Sonoma course which backs up the claim that Kurt Busch can drive just about anywhere on any type of track. The #41 team has been one of the strongest units this season and Busch is definitely aggressive enough to attack Sonoma’s tricky and twisting turns. With strong strategy calls coming from the pits in crew chief Tony Gibson and an attacking driver behind the wheel in Kurt Busch, the #41 team could be in line to pick up their third win of the season and second in a row.

Carl Edwards
The defending race winner comes into Sonoma driving for a brand new team and Carl Edwards will be looking to continue his recent road course success. His win in this race last year is his lone victory here and he also has three top five finishes and five top ten results. Edwards is listed at 12-1 odds this weekend and he comes into the road course event without the pressure of needing a victory to make the Chase courtesy of his win at Charlotte last month. That should allow Edwards and the #19 team to gamble a bit and concentrate solely on picking up win number two of 2015.

A.J. Allmendinger
A.J. Allmendinger is the closest driver to be considered a road course “ringer” on the circuit by virtue of his extensive road course background. He is listed at 8-1 odds this weekend despite having an average finish of 19.3 at Sonoma. However, Allmendinger won the last road course event on the circuit at Watkins Glen and he also owns wins at other road course venues such as Road America in the Xfinity Series. This is the best shot so far for Allmendinger and the #47 team to make the 2015 Chase and equal their accomplishment from a year ago. Allmendinger should be pumped up for this weekend’s race and he should carry some extra confidence with him this weekend so look for the #47 team to be a factor on Sunday at Sonoma.

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