Several Cup and Xfinity drivers performing double duty roles at Sonoma

For a second consecutive season, Sonoma Raceway is in for a delightful treat as NASCAR makes its annual return to the 12-turn circuit in Sonoma, California, on June 9-11, 2023.

In a similar approach from last year, two of NASCAR’s top three national touring series will run on the same weekend in conjunction with the ARCA Menards Series West at Sonoma. Compared to a year ago, where the Craftsman Truck Series competition made its return to the circuit for the first time in 24 years, the NASCAR Xfinity Series competition will experience its first taste of the twists and turns in Wine Country this upcoming Saturday, June 10, with DoorDash returning as a title sponsor of the 250-mile event.

With the return of the highly anticipated racing weekend in Northern California, a host of NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series stars will be attempting to pull double duty efforts within all three series.

The driver who headlines the double duty role for this weekend’s Xfinity-Cup doubleheader feature is Kyle Larson. The 2021 Cup Series champion and 21-race Cup winner from Elk Grove, California, is scheduled to make his first of two starts this season in the No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports. His Xfinity start will occur a day prior to climbing aboard his iconic No. 5 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the Cup division.

Aside from being a hometown hero, Larson is no stranger to achieving success at Sonoma. He notched a Cup victory at the circuit in 2021 after leading a race-high 57 of 92 laps and has started on pole position in the last five consecutive Cup events at Sonoma. He has also achieved his share of success on road course venues after winning the last two Cup events at Watkins Glen International, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course venue in October 2021 and his first Xfinity road course victory at The Glen last August.

While this weekend is set to mark his first Xfinity start of this season in HMS’ No. 17 entry, Larson has already made one start in the series in May. There, he piloted Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro entry to a thrilling last lap victory over John Hunter Nemechek at Darlington Raceway. With the Darlington victory being the first for him ever in NASCAR, Larson aims to achieve another accomplishment by adding a Xfinity victory at Sonoma to his racing resume.

Speaking of the No. 10 Kaulig Racing entry, AJ Allmendinger returns to pilot the entry for a second time this season. The 41-year-old veteran from Los Gatos, California, will be receiving sponsorship support from Gabriel Glas for this weekend’s Xfinity and Cup rides, where he currently drives the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry for Kaulig in NASCAR’s premier series.

Of his 16 career victories in the Xfinity circuit, 11 of them have occurred on road course venues, which makes Allmendinger the winningest competitor on road courses in the series. Despite winning on seven different road courses between the Xfinity and Cup levels, including his two Cup victories at Watkins Glen International and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course venue, Allmendinger has yet to achieve a win at Sonoma. In 11 previous starts at Sonoma in the Cup Series, he has led a total of 65 laps, but has only managed to finish in the top 10 twice, with his best result being seventh in 2009. He has managed to start on the front row three times between 2014-16, including on pole position in 2015. With his most recent victory in the series occurring this past March at Circuit of the Americas, Allmendinger strives to extend his road course dominance by checking off another road course venue off his bucket list.

Photo by Chad Wells for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Joining the list of double duty competitors between the Xfinity-Cup action is Ross Chastain, who drives the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Trackhouse Racing in the Cup Series. The 30-year-old Chastain from Alva, Florida, is scheduled to drive the No. 91 Chevrolet Camaro for DGM Racing sponsored by Skip Barber Racing School, with the event set to mark his third series start of this season after competing at Auto Club Speedway in February and at Darlington in May.

In three career starts at Sonoma in the Cup Series, Chastain has notched two consecutive seventh-place results, including this past season. He was one of five Cup competitors who competed in last year’s Truck Series event at Sonoma, where he led 19 of 75 laps before finishing fourth while driving for Niece Motorsports. Chastain also has one road course victory stored in his resume, which occurred at Circuit of the Americas in March 2022 on a day where he also notched the first Cup career win for himself and Trackhouse Racing. On the Xfinity side, his best series’ result on a road course venue was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course circuit, where he finished fourth.

Ironically, a year after making his 100th Truck career start overall at Sonoma, Chastain is also primed to achieve another milestone start in Northern California. By qualifying and taking the green flag in this Saturday’s event, he will make his 200th career start in the Xfinity circuit. Through 199 previous Xfinity starts, the Floridian has achieved two career victories, one pole, 23 top-five results, 49 top-10 results, 961 laps led and an average-finishing result of 16.7. His best points result in the series is seventh place, which occurred in 2020. During that season, he notched career-high stats in top-fives (15), top-10s (27), laps led (553), overall average-starting result (7.7) and overall average-finishing result (8.2) despite going winless and while driving for Kaulig Racing.

Veteran Aric Almirola from Tampa, Florida, is also scheduled to pull double duty efforts as he will be piloting the No. 28 Michael Roberts Construction Ford Mustang for RSS Racing on Saturday before driving the No. 10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing on Sunday. The Xfinity event is set to mark Almirola’s 104th career start in the series and second of the season after he competed at Circuit of the Americas this past March, where he finished 24th while competing for SS-Green Light Racing.

Through 10 Cup career starts at Sonoma, Almirola has achieved two top-10 results, with his best result being eighth in June 2018. While this weekend is set to mark his first Xfinity start at Sonoma, it will mark his third different series where he has competed at the circuit. In June 2018, Almirola competed in the ARCA Menards Series West event at Sonoma for Stewart-Haas Racing, where he finished second after leading 23 of 64 laps. With his last Xfinity victory occurring at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2017 and his best road course result in the Xfinity circuit being a fifth-place run at Watkins Glen in August 2018, a first road course victory is still something Almirola continues to pursue.

Photo by Bruce Nuttleman for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Another competitor attempting to participate in double duty efforts is Ty Dillon, who will be piloting the No. 4 Chevrolet Camaro for JD Motorsports. The 31-year-old Dillon and grandson of championship-winning owner Richard Childress from Welcome, North Carolina, is coming off his recent series start at Darlington in May, where he finished 19th while driving the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro.

Dillon has made a total of four Cup starts at Sonoma, with his best result being 23rd a year ago while driving for Petty GMS Motorsports. Like Almirola, he has yet to achieve a road course victory to his resume. The closest Dillon came to winning on a road course circuit was during the inaugural Truck Series event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in September 2013, where he was leading on the final lap until he got wrecked by Chase Elliott entering the final corner. His best Xfinity result on a road course venue is third, which was achieved at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August 2015. With his latest Xfinity victory spanning back to July 2014 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dillon, who currently competes full time in the Cup Series and in the No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Spire Motorsports, aims for a momentous boost to his racing career as he fights his way back to championship-caliber form.

In a youthful career highlighted with an abundance of success and a rapid ascend to the Cup Series level, Ty Gibbs is set to experience another first to his career as he prepares to tackle Sonoma Raceway for the first time ever and twice in one weekend. The 20-year-old reigning Xfinity Series champion and grandson of championship-winning owner Joe Gibbs from Charlotte, North Carolina, will return as the driver of the No. 19 Toyota Supra sponsored by The He Get Us campaign for his third series start of this season.

While racing on Sonoma’s surface will be new for Gibbs, racing on road courses is something he is familiar with, with some of his success occurring on road course venues. He achieved his first Xfinity career victory in his series debut at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course in February 2021. He then proceeded to win at Watkins Glen in August 2021 before winning at Road America last July following a last lap battle against Kyle Larson. With 11 Xfinity victories achieved, three on road courses, in 53 series career starts, Gibbs, who earned top-five results in two Xfinity starts this season at Circuit of the Americas in March and at Charlotte in May, aims to extend his top-five streak to three and potentially, emerge victorious while continuing his pursuit of claiming this year’s Cup Rookie-of-the-Year title behind the wheel of JGR’s No. 54 Toyota TRD Camry in the Cup circuit.

Lastly on the Xfinity side, Daniel Suarez becomes the seventh Cup participant for the inaugural Xfinity event at Sonoma as he will be piloting the No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro for SS-Green Light Racing. The 2016 Xfinity Series champion from Monterrey, Mexico, enters the Sonoma weekend with high momentum after notching his first Cup Series career victory at the circuit a year ago and becoming the first Mexican-born competitor to win in NASCAR’s premier series.

While this season marks his third as a full-time Cup Series competitor in the No. 99 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Trackhouse Racing, this Saturday’s Xfinity event is set to mark Suarez’s first start in the Xfinity circuit since racing at Chicagoland Speedway in June 2018. Suarez, though, made his name made within the Xfinity circuit with 84 career starts in the series, a Rookie-of-the-Year title from 2015 and three career victories, including the 2016 championship as he became the first Latin American competitor to win a title across NASCAR’s top three national touring series. His highest Xfinity result on road courses stands at fourth place, which he achieved twice at Watkins Glen and at Road America in August 2016.

For Sonoma, Suarez returns to the circuit with vast experience. In conjunction with his five total Cup Series start, he competed in two consecutive ARCA Menards Series West events at Sonoma, where he finished 11th and fourth, respectively, in 2017 and 2018. Suarez also competed as a relief competitor for the injured Carson Hocevar and Niece Motorsports during the Truck Series’ Sonoma event a year ago, where he rallied from two laps down after relieving Hocevar early in the event to finish sixth. Given his strength of the circuit, Suarez aims for a repeat victory while pursuing his first Cup victory of the 2023 campaign.

Photo by David Myers for SpeedwayMedia.com.

A day prior to the Xfinity Series’ inaugural event at Sonoma, the ARCA Menards Series West division will make its return to the circuit for the 44th time overall as General Tire retains its right of sponsoring the 200-mile event. The lone Cup Series competitor who is entered for the event is Ryan Preece, who drives the No. 41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. The 32-year-old Preece from Berlin, Connecticut, will be piloting the No. 9 Ford for SHR in the ARCA West region, which will mark his second career start in the series. His lone start in the series occurred at Sonoma in June 2019, where he led a race-high 33 of 57 laps and was in position of winning until he was penalized for a late restart violation and demoted to the last competitor running on the lead lap in 20th place. A former winner across the Truck and Xfinity circuits, Preece has also made two previous starts at Sonoma in the Cup Series in 2019 and 2021, with his best result being 21st from the 2021 season. His best results on road courses within NASCAR’s top three national touring series are a pair of fourth-place runs at Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course in 2018.

For Friday’s ARCA West event at Sonoma, Preece will be competing alongside a host of Xfinity Series regulars that include Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Parker Retzlaff, Kyle Sieg and Sammy Smith, all of whom will receive a head start to their weekend prior to their series’ debut at the Northern California circuit.

Custer, a former Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year recipient from Ladera Ranch, California, will retain driving responsibilities of the No. 55 Ford for High Point Racing for a second consecutive week after competing in last weekend’s event at Portland International Raceway. Custer is also coming off a dramatic weekend at Portland, where he notched his first Xfinity victory of the season during an overtime shootout. Herbst, Custer’s Xfinity teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing from Las Vegas, Nevada, will also be returning to the series for a second consecutive week as he will be driving the No. 5 Jerry Pitts Racing Ford.

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Retzlaff, a Xfinity rookie competitor from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, who currently competes for Jordan Anderson Racing, will be piloting the No. 02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet for a second consecutive week while Kyle Sieg, a full-time Xfinity competitor for RSS Racing from Tucker, Georgia, will be assuming the No. 46 Ford for Lowden Jackson Motorsports.

Lastly, Sammy Smith, a Xfinity rookie from Johnston, Iowa, who currently competes for Joe Gibbs Racing, will be joining Hattori Racing Enterprises for a one-race effort in the No. 81 Toyota. Smith, who notched his first Xfinity career victory at Phoenix Raceway in March, has not yet competed at Sonoma throughout his youthful racing career, but he has achieved an abundance of success within the ARCA divisions, with six victories in the ARCA Menards Series, two consecutive ARCA East titles and a single ARCA West victory that occurred at Phoenix last November.

With Sonoma Raceway serving as the next scheduled event on the 2023 NASCAR schedule and with the drivers’ roster for this weekend’s events set, the weekend commences with the ARCA Menards Series West running the General Tire 200 on Friday, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. ET as the event will air live on FloRacing. The Xfinity Series’ inaugural DoorDash 250 at Sonoma will occur the following day on Saturday, June 10, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. The Cup Series’ Toyota Save/Mart 350 will cap off the weekend as the series’ top premier competitors compete on Sunday, June 11, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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

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