The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will travel across the country to Sonoma Raceway this week for the Toyota Save Mart 350. This will be the first road course race of the season. The race can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
The MENCS will have a unique schedule this week. There will be two practices Friday, followed by qualifying Saturday afternoon. Be sure to check out my Garage Talk Notes and final picks for the Toyota Save Mart 350 after the field is set Saturday.
The last race at Sonoma had many dominators. Kyle Larson won the pole and led 9 laps. Martin Truex Jr. ran down Larson and led the next 25 laps. Jimmie Johnson used pit strategy to take the lead and he was out front for the next 12 laps. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin each led 10+ laps in the final stage. In the end it was the No. 4 car that ran Keselowski with 22 laps to go. Kevin Harvick won his first race at the track and the second race in a row for Stewart-Haas Racing at Sonoma.
Race Rewind at Michigan: Toyota Save Mart 350 (2017)
Sonoma is the more technical track or the three road courses in the MENCS (Watkins Glen and Charlotte the other two). Most drivers can find a way around Watkins Glen and Charlotte but it takes a lot of road course skill to brake, shift and accelerate through this twisting 2-mile track. The drivers who have run well here in the past will be up front again Sunday, regardless of how they have been running this season. This is truly a driver’s track.
DraftKings NASCAR Preview
There are only 110 laps in the race Sunday. That means there will only be 55 points available for fastest laps and 27.5 points available for leading laps. The trend at Sonoma is for 2 drivers to lead around 25 laps, one driver to lead 15 and the rest of the laps to be spread throughout the field. The drivers who lead the most laps do not always score the fastest laps. These laps tend to be spread throughout 22 drivers in the race. What does this mean? There should be 3 dominators Sunday but they will likely only score around 12 bonus points each. It will be more important to focus on finishing position (driver you think can finish in the top 10) at Sonoma.
The drivers I expect to be the top dominators this week are: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin
The drivers who could be the top value picks for the race Sunday include: Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and AJ Allmendinger
The drivers I expect to be the best cheap drivers for the race Sunday include: Kasey Kahne Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell
Top 15 DraftKings Drivers in Last 3 Races at Sonoma
|Avg. Finish Pos.||Laps Led||DK Points|
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kurt Busch
4. Joey Logano
5. Kyle Busch
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Ryan Newman
9. Paul Menard
10. Brad Keselowski
11. Jamie McMurray
12. Austin Dillon
13. Aric Almirola
14. Ryan Blaney
15. Clint Bowyer
I will post my final DraftKings picks Saturday evening.
Fantasy Live Preview
Fantasy Live continues to be my best game. My picks fell in the overall standings for the first time in the last 5 races. I went from 62nd overall to 76th. That is still not bad out of nearly 400,000 entries.
There are 11 races left in the Fantasy Live season. We still need to focus on saving allocations whenever we can. Road course races tend to be unpredictable so this is a good week to fade Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. They have a lot more value on the 1.5-mile tracks so I plan to save them for Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington.
*Pick for the Pole*: Our pick for the pole needs to be in before qualifying at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. My pick for the pole will be posted after the final practice Friday (7 p.m. ET) on the front page of this website.
**Garage Driver: I have been doing my best to keep everyone informed by using my Twitter account @MrFantasyNASCAR. I will do it again Sunday so make sure you follow me and get all of the information about the cars as I scan the drivers throughout the race.
*** My final picks for Fantasy Live will be posted after qualifying Saturday afternoon. I will also post picks for the new NASCAR America Fantasy Live game as well.
Here are the drivers I have penciled in right now…
5 Starting Drivers
Denny Hamlin (5): Hamlin is a very good road course driver. I am not too worried about using an allocation with him at Sonoma. He dominated the race at Sonoma in 2016 until he was passed on the final lap by Tony Stewart. Joe Gibbs Racing usually runs very good at this track so I plan to have the No. 11 car leading my lineup Sunday.
Kurt Busch (3): I hate to burn another allocation with Busch but Stewart-Haas Racing has Sonoma figured out. They won the last two races at the track (Tony Stewart in 2016 and Kevin Harvick in 2017). It is no secret the team wants to get Busch to Victory Lane to lock up his spot in the playoffs. The trend has been for the team to give Busch the best car they have to try and get him a win. I expect that to be the case again this week.
Clint Bowyer (6): I wrote in my season preview article for Bowyer that he would end his winless streak at Sonoma. I never would have thought he would have 2 wins going into this race. I would not be surprised if Bowyer was in Victory Lane again Sunday. Bowyer won the race at Sonoma in 2012 and he finished 2nd last year. He knows how to navigate the 10 turns (12 depending on who you ask) and out-brake the competition. I will definitely have the No. 14 car in my lineup this week.
Jamie McMurray (10): McMurray is a great pick for Fantasy Live this week. Last year he qualified 2nd, led a lap and finished 10th at Sonoma. His average finishing position in the last 4 races at Sonoma is 10th. I would gladly take a 10th-place finish from McMurray this week and move onto to Chicago. McMurray is one of the best at qualifying at Sonoma so if he starts up front he will be a great pick for the race.
AJ Allmendinger (10): Allmendinger is a risky pick this week. He has an average finishing position of 31st in the last 4 races at Sonoma. He always overdrives the car because he knows this is his only shots to win the race. I have him in the lineup for many reasons…. Allmendinger has never qualified worse than 5th at Sonoma while driving for JTG Daugherty Racing. Everyone will have him in their lineup so that will eliminate some of the risk if he crashes. We can always use the Garage Driver if something happens to Allmendinger in the race. He is the ultimate “boom or bust” pick at this track. I plan to have Allmendinger on the team just in case this is the year the No. 47 teams puts it altogether.
I plan to have Jimmie Johnson (9) in the garage this week. He is not the first name that comes to mind when people think of road course racing but Johnson is actually pretty good. His average finishing position at Sonoma since 2008 is 7th. That is pretty solid. Johnson probably will not win the race but he is a good insurance policy to have in the garage this week.
My Bonus Picks will be updated after I see the cars on the track this weekend. Here are my thoughts right now…
Pick for the Pole: Martin Truex Jr.
Stage 1 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Stage 2 Winner: Kevin Harvick
Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
Winning Manufacturer: Ford
Fantrax Bronze Point Salary Cap Game Preview
My Fantrax Bronze Point Salary Cap picks are holding steady. I am in 3rd place in my league with 21 races left on the schedule. The problem in my league is that everyone is using my picks. It will be hard to pass the leaders when they know who I have…LOL
I am thinking about selling one of my drivers and picking up AJ Allmendinger for this race. I will wait to see how the No. 47 car looks in practice before I make a decision.
I will evaluate the drivers on this team during the practice sessions this week and try to get as much information as possible to help us win. Here is the lineup I have “penciled in” right now…
Martin Truex Jr.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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