The MENCS competes at Sonoma Raceway this week in the Toyota Save Mart 350. This is the first road course race of the season. Drivers either know how to get around this difficult track or they struggle in the race. There is little middle ground here. You will want to start the drivers who have a history of running well at Sonoma.
Here are my picks for Sonoma…
Martin Truex Jr. (8): Truex Jr. should be a threat to win Sunday. He led the most laps in this race last year and he looked fast in practice Friday. Truex was 3rd-fastest in final practice and he told Fox Sports that his car is very good on the long runs. He did get some damage at the end of practice when Bubba “no driving” Wallace Jr. decided to slam on the brakes in front of Truex. The team reported that the damage is fixed so I am not too worried about it. Truex will start on the front row Sunday.
Group A Rankings: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Kyle Busch 4) Jimmie Johnson 5) Denny Hamlin 6) Brad Keselowski 7) Joey Logano 8) Kyle Larson
Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch will be very good picks even though they start deep in the field. I am sitting both of them on the bench this week because their allocations are too important to use at a track where it is easy to get caught up in someone else’s mess. I will use them on the 1.5-mile tracks where it is much easier to stay out of trouble.
Jamie McMurray (7): McMurray qualified up front once again at Sonoma. That is nothing new for the No. 1 team. Now we need McMurray to stay up there. He has been pretty good at running in the top 10 at this track. I will use an allocation with McMurray and save the my top drivers for the 1.5-mile tracks.
AJ Allmendinger (9): Fool me once shame on you… Fool me twice shame on me….you know the rest… Why do I keep playing with fire at Sonoma when I have been burned by Allmendinger so many times in the past? There is no doubt he is a great road course racer but can he put a complete race together and finish in the top five? His car is very fast and I doubt I will use more than two or three allocations with him this year. Allmendinger said this is the best car he has ever had at Sonoma. I hope it is not fake news.
Group B Rankings: 1) Clint Bowyer 2) Kurt Busch 3) Jamie McMurray 4) AJ Allmendinger 5) Chase Elliott 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Ryan Newman 8) Aric Almirola
Michael McDowell (8): McDowell competed in the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Series for two years before he began his NASCAR career. That time on the road course has really helped him on the road courses in the MENCS. McDowell finished 14th in this race last year and he should be a good pick for another top-20 finish Sunday. McDowell was 10th-fastest in final practice. His Ford looks like it has the speed to compete with the big boys Sunday.
Group C Rankings: 1) Alex Bowman 2) William Byron 3) Michael McDowell 3) Chris Buescher 4) David Ragan 5) Matt Dibendetto
Good luck this week!
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