Roger Diez: NASCAR moves into Sonoma this week

Roger Diez

Roger Diez

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From the longest races on their respective schedules, both NASCAR Cup and IndyCar went short last weekend. The NASCAR Cup race on the World Wide Technology Raceway Park 1.25 mile oval was 306 miles with overtime while the IndyCar series raced for 165 miles at Belle Isle in Detroit. This weekend NASCAR is at Sonoma Raceway, a little over three hours west of us. The IndyCar series is at Road America, the longest track on the schedule at 4 miles, and Formula 1 will race on the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan.
Joey Logano out-dueled the Busch brothers for the win in overtime in last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup World Wide Technology race, becoming the fourth two-time winner this season. Kyle Busch came home second with brother Kurt third.
But the story of the race was Ross Chastain, who hit just about everybody but the pace car while finishing eighth. Chastain apologized to the field after the race, but the apology fell flat with Denny Hamlin who got the worst of it. Hamlin tried to retaliate until NASCAR said enough, but he promised future payback.
And A.J. Allmendinger put on a near-miraculous Xfinity drive in Portland on Saturday. He dropped to last place after a first lap pit stop, then charged through a persistent rainstorm to take the win before hopping on a plane for WWT Raceway, where he finished 10th in Sunday’s Cup race.
Kyle Larson is the defending winner on the 2.5 mile, 12-turn Sonoma road course, but Martin Truex Jr. has the most wins of active drivers with three. Kyle Busch has won twice while Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch have one Sonoma win each.
Road course ace Chase Elliot is the favorite at 9-2 odds with teammate Larson at 7-1 and Truex 8-1. COTA winner Chastain shares 9-1 odds with Kyle Busch, Allmendinger is 12-1, and Hamlin 14-1.
The race airs on FS1 on Sunday at 1 p.m., with qualifying Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on FS2. The Camping World Trucks qualify Saturday at 10 a.m. and race at 4:30 p.m., both on FS1.
Will Power held off a charging Alex Rossi to win at the last Belle Isle IndyCar race, which will move to the streets of downtown Detroit in 2023. Rossi reduced a 14-second deficit to one second at the checker for a best of season result.
The win vaulted Power to the top of the point standings as he became the third Team Penske driver to win this year. Rossi is moving from his Andretti Autosport ride to Arrow McLaren SP next year. Sunday the series races at Road America, where Rossi has two podium finishes including a win in 2019. Power won there in 2016, Scott Dixon in 2017, Josef Newgarden in 2018, while Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist split the 2020 doubleheader. Defending winner and 2021 champion Alex Palou will try to make it back to back wins Sunday.
Qualifying airs Saturday at 11 a.m. on Peacock with the race Sunday on NBC and Peacock at 11 a.m.
Due to the difficult race conditions in Monaco, it was impossible to determine whether Mercedes newfound speed in Spain was a trend or a one-off. This weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix should be a better indication of whether the Silver Arrows have a chance at salvaging the season.
Last year’s Baku race wasn’t kind to either of the championship front-runners, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. But overall it’s been a good venue for recent Monaco winner Sergio Perez, who has podium finishes there for three different teams.
Qualifying airs Saturday at 7 a.m. on ESPN2 with the race broadcast at 4 a.m. on ESPN Sunday.


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