Crunching The Numbers: Sonoma & Road America

That time of the year has come again when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series head for the first road courses of the season in Sonoma, CA and Elkhart Lake, WI, respectively. Many of the road course races in recent memory have turned into races that resemble short track races than the follow the leader races of old and this weekend’s events should be more of the same beating and banging all the way to the finish. Add in the addition of so called “road course ringers” and the road courses make for very entertaining races.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

This weekend marks the annual trip to California Wine Country and Sonoma Raceway’s lone Sprint Cup date. With the advent of double file restarts, this race has become a must see event due to the narrow course that these drivers are trying to navigate while running two wide. That factor often leads to cars being spun off course and tempers flaring among the drivers. In addition to that, the Sprint Cup Series will debut group based qualifying this weekend and this will also be the Sonoma debut for the Gen6 car, which throws more uncertainty into this race that has not seen a repeat winner in the past eight races.

Driver Races Win Top 5 Top 10 Pole Laps Led Avg. Start Avg. Finish
Jeff Gordon 20 5 12 16 5 450 7.4 8.6
Clint Bowyer 7 1 4 5 0 73 17.1 9.7
Tony Stewart 14 2 5 9 1 82 11.1 10.9
Marcos Ambrose 5 0 2 4 1 46 5.0 12.8
Ryan Newman 11 0 2 5 0 11 10.8 12.9
Juan Pablo Montoya 6 1 1 4 0 9 18.8 13.2
Jimmie Johnson 11 1 4 6 0 85 16.0 13.8
Greg Biffle 10 0 2 4 0 9 16.4 14.9
Kevin Harvick 12 0 3 4 0 10 16.7 16.1
Joey Logano 4 0 0 2 1 5 11.8 17.0

Who To Watch: Four-time Sprint Cup champion, Jeff Gordon, has proven himself to be one of the best on road courses, especially at Sonoma, with five wins, 12 top fives, 16 top tens, five poles, 450 laps led, and an average finish of 8.6 in 20 races.

2012 winner, Clint Bowyer, has also proven his mettle at Sonoma with one win, four top fives, five top tens, 73 laps led, and an average finish of 9.7 in seven races.

Others who run well on the road course include: Tony Stewart, with two wins, five top fives, nine top tens, one pole, 82 laps led, and an average finish of 10.9 in 14 races; Road course ace Marcos Ambrose who has yet to win at Sonoma, but has two top fives, four top tens, one pole, 46 laps led, and an average finish of 12.8 in five races; Ryan Newman, with two top fives, five top tens, 11 laps led, and an average finish of 12.9 in 11 races; 2007 winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, with one win, one top five, four top tens, nine laps led, and an average finish of 13.2 in six races; and Jimmie Johnson, with one win, four top fives, six top tens, 85 laps led, and an average finish of 13.8 in 11 starts.

NASCAR Nationwide Series – Johnsonville Sausage 200 at Road America

For just the fourth time, the Nationwide Series will be making the trek to Wisconsin to take on the daunting 4.048 mile road course, the longest on the circuit. The field will be full of drivers who have never raced at the track or only have one start, leaving the field wide open for a new winner. With none of the Sprint Cup regulars attempting the double and a few “ringers” joining the field, the odds are high that one of the Nationwide regulars will find themselves in Victory Lane for the third race in a row.

Driver Races Win Top 5 Top 10 Pole Laps Led Avg. Start Avg. Finish
Nelson Piquet, Jr. 1 1 1 1 1 19 1.0 1.0
Reed Sorenson 1 1 1 1 0 1 12.0 1.0
Brendan Gaughan 1 0 1 1 0 0 6.0 3.0
Owen Kelly 1 0 1 1 0 0 9.0 5.0
Sam Hornish, Jr. 1 0 1 1 0 3 8.0 5.0
Cole Whitt 1 0 0 1 0 0 14.0 9.0
Elliott Sadler 2 0 1 1 0 0 10.0 9.5
Brian Scott 3 0 0 1 0 10 13.3 12.0
Max Papis 2 0 1 1 0 1 3.5 13.5
Blake Koch 1 0 0 0 0 0 24.0 14.0

Who To Watch: With a win and a pole in his only race at the track last season, Nelson Piquet, Jr. is at the top of the list statistically of the drivers who have competed at Road America. Piquet led 19 laps en route to victory last season and is looking to become the first repeat winner at the track in the short history that the Nationwide Series has there.

The only other driver in the field with a win is Reed Sorenson, who along with his one win has one top five, one top ten, one lap led and an average finish of 1.0 in one start.

Others who run well at Road America, but have yet to win include: Brendan Gaughan, with a third place finish in his lone start; Owen Kelly, piloting Kyle Busch’s No. 54, with a fifth place finish in one start; Sam Hornish, Jr., currently sitting second in points, with a fifth place finish in one start; Cole Whitt, who recently returned to the Nationwide Series, with a ninth place finish in one start; and Elliott Sadler, who is the highest ranking driver with more than one start and has one top five and one top ten in his two starts at the track.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of



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