The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels back to the west coast for the first road course race of the year. The racing at Sonoma is always exciting but this year it could be even better. To celebrate 50 years of racing at the course, Sonoma will add “The Carousel” to the already tricky track. This will make the road course 2.52-miles in length and have 12 turns. The Toyota / Save Mart 350 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.
One of the changes this season for the Driver Group Game is that your league commissioner has the ability to change to number of allocations for each driver and can place drivers into any group they choose. My picks will be based on the default settings (8 allocations per driver and the original group settings).
Here are my picks for Sonoma…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Martin Truex Jr. (7): Truex has been the best driver on the road courses for the past two seasons and it has not even been close. Truex won at Sonoma and Watkins Glen and he should have won the Charlotte Roval race last year but he was spun out by Jimmie Johnson on the final lap. That would have gave him a clean sweep of the road course races last year. The No. 19 car was fast in practice. Truex posted the fastest time in the 1st practice and the 12th fastest speed in final practice. He would have been higher on the speed chart but he was in race trim while other cars had their qualifying package in their cars. Truex should be a lock for a top-five finish Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Martin Truex Jr. 2) Kyle Busch 3) Chase Elliott 4) Kevin Harvick 5) Kyle Larson 6) Joey Logano 7) Brad Keselowski
Driver Group Game B Picks
Clint Bowyer (3): The word in the garage is that Bowyer has the car to beat Sunday. He has the fastest car on the long runs. Bowyer posted the fastest 10-lap average speed and the fastest 15-lap average speed. The No. 14 car also has some short run speed too. Bowyer posted the 4th fastest speed in final practice. Bowyer has a series-best 4.8 average finishing position on the road courses over the last two seasons. This is a great race to use an allocation with the No. 14 car.
Kurt Busch (5): Do you want a guaranteed top-10 finish from your Group B driver? Then make sure Busch is on your team. He has an average finishing position of 6.4 since 2013 on the road course. That is crazy good consistency. The last time he finished outside the top 10 at Sonoma was in 2010. Busch has another fast car this week. He posted the second-fastest speed in final practice. I am not going to get cute with my picks this week. I will take my top-10 finish from Busch and move onto the race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Clint Bowyer 2) Kurt Busch 3) Denny Hamlin 4) Aric Almirola 5) Jimmie Johnson 6) Alex Bowman 7) Ryan Blaney 8) Daniel Suarez 9) William Byron 10) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Driver Group Game C Picks
Michael McDowell (8): I would love to use Chris Buescher in this spot. He is the most underrated road course driver in the sport. I need to save his allocations for the larger tracks so I will use McDowell instead. McDowell has had some success on the road courses. He has a 16.6 average finishing position over the last two seasons on the road course. I will gladly take a 16th-place finish from McDowell Sunday. His car posted the 4th fastest speed in qualifying trim and the 8th fastest speed on the 10-lap average speed chart. Not too bad. I will use McDowell this week in order to save allocations with the more popular drivers.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Chris Buescher 2) Michael McDowell 3) Matt DiBenedetto 4) David Ragan 5) Ty Dillon
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (7)
Group B: Clint Bowyer (3), Kurt Busch (5)
Group C: Michael McDowell (8)
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Good luck this week!
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