Driver Group Game Picks Sonoma

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The Cup Series travels to wine country this weekend to race at Sonoma Raceway. This will be the second road course race on the 2024 schedule (COTA was the first). The teams will use the short track aero package on this 1.99-mile track. It has been tough to pass the leader with this aero package on the short tracks and it has not been very easy to make passes on the road courses as well. The track was repaved during the off-season, so maybe there will be more grip and more passing at Sonoma. The Toyota / Save Mart 350 can be seen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

 

 

STRATEGY FOR SONOMA

Sonoma is one of the more technical road courses on the schedule. The drivers who perform well on the Rovals and at Watkins Glen, do not always run well at Sonoma. COTA is also a technical road course track. We need to focus our picks this week on the drivers who ran well in the two races in the Gen-7 car at Sonoma and at the race earlier this year at COTA.

This is a good race to save your allocations with some of your top drivers. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson have had a lot of success at Sonoma. They are also the two best drivers in Group A. It would be a good idea to save the No. 11 and the No. 5 cars for the oval tracks. Tyler Reddick is a road course ace, but his is also the best driver in Group B. Reddick has an average finishing position of 29th in his career at Sonoma. I will save him for the oval tracks too (I am using Reddick for qualifying points though). There are plenty of drivers who are good at Sonoma, but not great on the oval tracks. I will have these drivers in my lineup this weekend.

 

 

GROUP A DRIVERS

KYLE LARSON (5): I originally had Martin Truex Jr. in this spot because he has won three of the last five races at Sonoma and he tested the tires that will be used when they had a Goodyear test last March. Truex hated his car in practice, so I will pivot to Kyle Larson. The No. 5 car was the fastest in race trim and he posted the fastest speed on the five-lap speed chart. Larson has dominated races at his home track before. He looks like he may do it again Sunday.

CHASE ELLIOTT (9): Elliott has the most wins in the Cup Series on the road courses, but he has never won in the Gen-7 car. That could change this week. Elliott went out in practice and did not like his car. The No. 5 team made some adjustments and he went straight to the top of the speed chart. Elliott said on the radio that the adjustments worked and he was really close to having what he needs for Sunday’s race. Elliott should battle his teammate (Kyle Larson) for the win at Sonoma.

(OTHER PICK) KYLE BUSCH (9): Kyle Busch is your driver if you want to save your allocations with Kyle Larson. Busch has finished five of his last six races at Sonoma in the top-five. He has a good chance to make it six out of seven races Sunday. Busch posted the fifth-fastest speed in race trim and Rowdy was sixth–fastest on the five-lap average speed chart. The downfall for the No. 8 team has been their pit crew. It shouldn’t be a problem at Sonoma.

 

GROUP B DRIVERS

ROSS CHASTAIN (6): I originally had Chris Buescher in this spot but the RFK Racing cars looked lost in practice. I will pivot to Ross Chastain. He won the race at COTA in 2022 in the Gen-7 car and the No. 1 car looked awesome in practice. Chastain was second-fastest in race trim and second-fastest on the five-lap average speed chart. Chastain should qualify up front and be one of the drivers to beat Sunday.

MICHAEL MCDOWELL (6): I was hoping that McDowell would be a bit faster in practice. The No. 34 car posted the 11th-fastest speed in race trim and had the ninth-fastest speed on the five lap average speed chart. McDowell has been a qualifying ace this year. I expect the No. 34 car to start up front and McDowell has the talent to keep it there.

TY GIBBS (6): The best Toyota is in the field is the No. 54 car. That should not be a surprise since Gibbs had 50-minutes to practice in the Xfinity Series and then another 50-mintutes to dial in his car for the Cup Series race. Gibbs was seventh-fastest in race trim and he posted the fourth-fastest speed on the five-lap average speed chart. I do not want to use an allocation with Gibbs Sunday, but I may have to.

TYLER REDDICK (3): Reddick looked fast in practice, so I expect the No. 45 car will qualify in the top-five. I am still not using Reddick in the race. He is only on the team for qualifying bonus points. I need to save Reddick for some of the oval tracks. He would be a good pick if you have five or more allocations left with the No. 45 car.

(OTHER PICK) CHRIS BUESCHER (8): You can use Chris Buescher if you do not want to use Tyler Reddick for qualifying points and you want another option for the race Sunday. Buescher wasn’t as fast as I expected in practice, but it would not be the first time he looked slow in practice and then ran up front when the green flag was waiver. Buescher is just too consistent on the road courses to completely ignore Sunday.

 

 

GROUP C DRIVERS

AJ ALLMENDINGER (9): I am not fading AJ Allmendinger on a road course. He always has speed at these tracks and it was no different Friday. Allmendinger posted the sixth-fastest speed in race trim. He also has a lot of extra seat time since Allmendinger had a 50-minute Xfinity Series practice and 79 laps in the Xfinity Series race Saturday. Allmendinger should have this track figured out when they waive the green flag for the Cup Series race Sunday.

NOAH GRAGSON (6): I really wish we had Will Brown as an option in Group C because he looked really fast in practice. Noah Gragson also looked fast. The No. 10 car posted the seventh-fastest speed in practice and Gragson had 13th-fastest five-lap average speed. He hasn’t been great on the road courses, but it is a small sample size. Gragson should at least be fast enough to score some qualifying points Sunday.

(OTHER CHOICE) TODD GILLILAND (9): We all know that Michael McDowell is good on the road courses, but we should not overlook his teammate. Gilliland has been improving his road course skills and he looked decent in practice Sunday. I do not think he will be fast enough to score bonus points for qualifying and he is not good enough to start over AJ Allmendinger so I faded Gilliland. He should be a good pick if you want to be really contrarian Sunday.

* Be sure to check back Sunday morning for my starting lineup.

 

 

XFINITY SERIES PICKS

 

Good Luck This Weekend!

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