The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the rolling hills of Northern California this week for the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.
This week’s race at Sonoma will mark the first road-course test for the Gen-6 car. So far the car has performed well turning left lap after lap. Now we will get to see how the car performs when drivers navigate the 11 left, right, left, right turns at Sonoma.
Road-course races provide fantasy NASCAR players an opportunity to use drivers who they have avoided for most of the season. While there are road-course aces in the field this week, remember that the race in Sonoma has been won by eight different drivers in the past eight races.
No racetrack on the circuit comes down to fuel mileage as much as the race at Sonoma. The race is only 219 miles so crew chiefs will try to complete the race in only two or three pit stops. Fuel mileage often brings drivers who ran in the back of the field all day into play at the end of the race.
Here is my top 30 and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the driver’s career statistics at Sonoma….
Racing for the Win
1. Kurt Busch has been one of the hottest drivers in the series the past month. He finished this race in third place last year driving for Phoenix Racing. He will win this week in his No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy.
2. Marcos Ambrose has finished in the top 10 in the past four races at Sonoma. He always runs up front, but has yet to take home the trophy. He will come close once again this year with a second place finish.
3. Tony Stewart is one of the best drivers on the road-course. He has two wins, five top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes in his 14 career starts at Sonoma. He will run up front this week.
4. Clint Bowyer is not the driver most fantasy NASCAR players think of when they think of drivers on the road-course. Bowyer has finished four of his seven races at Sonoma in the top five. He will make it five of eight on Sunday.
5. Jeff Gordon has finished in the top three at Sonoma 11 times in his career. He has finished outside the top 10 only once since 2002. He will add another top-five finish this week.
6. Jimmie Johnson is not just good on oval racetracks. Jeff Gordon taught Five-Time to race on the road-courses. Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the last four races at Sonoma. He will make it five in a row on Sunday.
7. Carl Edwards is either very good or very bad at Sonoma. In his eight careers races at the racetrack, Edwards has three top-10 finishes and four finishes outside the top-18. The “good” Edwards will show up this week.
8. Kyle Busch is not afraid to outrace other drivers into the corners at Sonoma. That makes him a good driver, but also puts him at risk for wrecking his car. Busch will drive the wheels off the car to a top-10 finish this week.
9. Juan Pablo Montoya has started off his career with four straight top-10 finishes at Sonoma. He finished the last two races outside the top 20. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is running well this year and that will put Montoya back into the top 10.
10. Joey Logano is my sleeper this week. He won the pole for this race in 2011 and has finished the last two races at Sonoma in the top 10. He will find his way into the top 10 again this week.
11. Kasey Kahne has had some success at Sonoma in his career. He won the race here in 2009 and finished 14th last year. He has had a fast car all season and Sunday will be no different.
12. Brad Keselowski has only raced at Sonoma in three races. He finished two of the three races inside the top 12. He will finish inside the top 12 again this week.
13. Kevin Harvick is improving as a road-course racer. He finished third in 2010, ninth in 2011 and 16th last year. He will finish inside the top 15 on Sunday.
14. Ryan Newman has finished 10 of his 11 career races at Sonoma inside the top 20. He will add a top-15 finish to his Sonoma resume this week.
15. Jamie McMurray is another sleeper in the field this week. McMurray has finished four of the last five races at Sonoma in the top-15. He will add another top-15 finish on Sunday.
16. Martin Truex Jr. is not the best road-course racer in the field, but he will be good enough for a top 20 finish this week.
17. Greg Biffle is much better on ovals than he is on road-courses. He finished seventh in this race last year, but I do not see him having a great run on Sunday.
18. Brian Vickers will be in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota this week. He finished fourth at Sonoma last year and may be worth a gamble if you want to save other drivers.
19. Jeff Burton has a lot of experience, but very little success at Sonoma. He will barely crack the top 20 this week.
20. Matt Kenseth just wants to make it through the race on Sunday in one piece. He only has one top 10 finish at Sonoma. Save Kenseth for the oval racetracks.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. David Gilliland is a great sleeper to use in Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing this week. This is his best racetrack. He finished second at Sonoma in 2008 and has five top 26 finishes in his seven career races at the racetrack.
22. Denny Hamlin has a streak of three finishes outside the top 30 at Sonoma. He will not be that bad this week, but not good enough to finish inside the top 20.
23. Ricky Stenhouse has never raced in the Sprint Cup Series on a road course, but he has competed in eight races in the Nationwide Series on road-courses. He finished six of those eight races inside the top 25. Expect about the same from Stenhouse this week.
24. Jacques Villeneuve will be driving the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing this week. Villeneuve is a road-course ace and might be worth a gamble this week.
25. Paul Menard has not had any success at Sonoma. There are much better choices this week to use on your team.
26. Dale Earnhardt Jr. looks like a fish out of water at Sonoma. Save Earnhardt for the oval racetracks.
27. Casey Mears has finished six of his nine races at Sonoma outside the top 20. He will make it No. 7 this week.
28. Danica Patrick is not a bad road-course racer. She still is not good enough to compete with the top drivers in the Sprint Cup Series.
29. Aric Almirola has competed in two races at Sonoma and finished both of them 28th. Why not make it three for three.
30. Bobby Labonte will be back in the No. 47 car this week. He used to be good at Sonoma, but that was a long time ago.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart
Group B: Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya
Group C: David Gilliland, Casey Mears
Fantasy Live Picks
Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Joey Logano
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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