Driver Group Game Picks Sonoma


The Cup Series will travel across the country to race at Sonoma Raceway Sunday. This will be the second road course race (COTA was the other race) for the Cup Series in 2023. Sonoma is one of the more technical tracks on the road course schedule for the Cup Series. The drivers with a strong background in road course racing typically do well in Northern California, but the key to winning the race will be pit strategy. It should be fun to see how it plays out. The Toyota / Save Mart 350 can be seen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.



The Cup Series just went through the spring schedule that had races at many intermediate and short tracks. We used a lot of our top drivers in these races. NASCAR will compete at two road courses (Sonoma and Chicago), a superspeedway (Atlanta) and a trip to Pocono over the next month. This is the part of the schedule where we need to give the top drivers (Kyle Larson, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch) a break and take a chance with some of the drivers we have not used much this season.

Here are the picks for the Toyota / Save Mart 350



CHASE ELLIOTT (8): The 2023 season is probably one that Elliott would like to forget. He has missed seven races and is now 98 points below the cut line for making the playoffs. Elliott needs a win to take the pressure off his team. It could come this week at Sonoma. Elliott has the best average finishing position and the second-best driver rating at Sonoma over the last three seasons. He has never won in “wine country”, but he did finish second in 2021. I have plenty of allocations left with Elliott, so I plan on starting him Sunday.

KYLE LARSON (7): You must have Larson in your lineup this week. I know you are thinking, “Why should we burn an allocation with Larson at Sonoma when he is so good at other tracks?” I do not plan to burn an allocation with the No. 5 car. I plan to take the guaranteed 10 bonus points for qualifying that Larson will give use Saturday. Larson is almost a lock to win the pole at Sonoma. He has won the pole in every race at Sonoma since 2016 and he has never qualified outside the top-five. Take the free points and make sure Larson is in your lineup this week.

(CONTRARIAN PICK) ROSS CHASTAIN (8): Chastain is starting to become one of the better road course racers in the Cup Series. He won the race at COTA last year and he finished fourth at COTA this year. He has also been good at Sonoma. Chastain has driven the No. 1 car for Trackhouse Racing in two races at Sonoma. He finished seventh in both races. If you want to be different from the rest of your league Sunday, take a chance with Chastain.

GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Chase Elliott 2) Kyle Larson 3) Ross Chastain 4) William Byron 5) Joey Logano 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Denny Hamlin 8) Christopher Bell



DANIEL SUAREZ (7): It was great to see my amigo go to Victory Lane last year at Sonoma. Can he do it again Sunday? I am not sure Suarez will win the race, but he should run up front, score a lot of Stage Points and be a good pick for your Driver Group Game lineups. Suarez has the third-best driver rating and the third-best average finishing position over the last three seasons at Sonoma. This is a good race to use an allocation with the No. 99 car.

AUSTIN CINDRIC (8): Cindric has not been very good in the No. 2 car for Team Penske, but he has been good on the road courses. Cindric finished sixth earlier this season at COTA and he finished fifth last year at Sonoma. We need to save our allocations with Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, so this is a good race to pivot to Cindric.

CHRIS BUESCHER (9): Buescher nearly won the race at Sonoma last year. He qualified third, scored eight Stage Points, led four laps and finished second. He also finished eighth at COTA earlier this season. That makes six consecutive top-10 finishes for Buescher on the road courses (with a fifth-place average finishing position). This is a good race to use an allocation with Buescher and save your top drivers for the oval tracks.

TYLER REDDICK (5): I thought about sitting Reddick out this week and playing Michael McDowell, but I cannot ignore what Reddick did on the road course at COTA this year. The No. 45 car was clearly the class of the field. He only has two races in the Cup Series at Sonoma on his resume and he crashed out of both of them. I still need Reddick on my team for qualifying points and if he wins the pole or starts on the front row, I will use him in the race.

 (CONTRARIAN PICK) MICHAEL MCDOWELL (9): McDowell is having a pretty good season. He is 20th in the points standings and only 35 points below the cut line. McDowell will have some momentum after his top-10 finish last week at Gateway. McDowell has a history of running well on the road courses. He finished third in this race last year and he should be good again Sunday. McDowell is a good play if you want to save your allocations with Tyler Reddick this week.

GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Daniel Suarez 2) Tyler Reddick 3) Chris Buescher 4) Austin Cindric 5) Michael McDowell 6) Alex Bowman 7) Kyle Busch 8) Martin Truex Jr. 9) Chase Briscoe 10) Austin Dillon



AJ ALLMENDINGER (6): What should we do with Allmendinger this week? It is hard to fade him on a road course, but it is also hard to ignore his stats at Sonoma. Allmendinger has an average finishing position of 30th over his last six races in Northern California. That is a large sample size with a lot of poor results. His car has been fast, but mechanical issues always end his day. I do not trust Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Corey LaJoie, Harrison Burton or Noah Gragson, so I will roll the dice with Allmendinger. At least he has scored bonus points for qualifying in five of his last six races at Sonoma.

TY GIBBS (7): I sure hope AJ Allmendinger shows us something in practice and qualifying to give me more confidence in using him this week. I would hate to burn another allocation with Gibbs this week, but he is the best choice in Group C. Gibbs finished ninth earlier this season at COTA. He will also get some extra seat time since Gibbs is competing in the Xfinity Series race Saturday. I will have Gibbs in my lineup as a backup plan to Allmendinger Sunday.

(OTHER CHOICE) RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (7): I was going to write about Todd Gilliland as another choice in Group C but I realized he will be in the Rick Ware Racing car this week. The only option in Group C besides AJ Allmendinger and Ty Gibbs is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He has not been a good road course racer in his career, but he figured something out over the offseason. Stenhouse has run in the top-10 in almost every race. Even the tracks were he has struggled at. Stenhouse finished seventh at COTA earlier this season. He has a decent chance to finish in the top-15 Sunday.   


GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Ty Gibbs 2) AJ Allmendinger 3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 4) Ryan Preece 5) Harrison Burton

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





Good Luck This Weekend!


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