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Can Hendrick Motorsports Keep Its Streak Going?
Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won the last five races on the Sprint Cup schedule, and after last week's race, Nate Ryan of USA Today wrote, "Hendrick Motorsports seemed miles ahead of the competition Sunday at Michigan International Speedway."
The team will come to Sonoma looking to keep that winning feeling alive. The in-house engine program at Hendrick has given the team the horsepower advantage, but the road course at Sonoma is more about skill than speed.
However, Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson is on a hot streak, having won three of the last four races, including last week's race in Michigan. Johnson wasn't great at road courses early in his career, but he has had a lot more success recently, finishing in the top 10 at Sonoma for the last five years, including a win in 2010.
The best bet from Hendrick is Jeff Gordon, who currently leads the Sprint Cup standings. He is the most successful driver in the history of the Sonoma Raceway, with five wins.
Can an Inexperienced Driver Break Through?
Road courses tend to favor experienced drivers, and Sonoma is no different. It's been five years since someone in his 20s won the Save Mart 350, and that was 29-year-old Kasey Kahne back in 2009.
This year, 2013 Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson will be looking to finally drive into Victory Lane. Larson is eighth in the standings and has three top-five finishes and seven top-10s this year. The 21-year-old is the best candidate for stopping the trend of veteran winners at Sonoma.
Can a Past Champion Repeat?
From 1998 to 2006, Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart won seven of the nine races at Sonoma. Since 2007, there have been different winners each year. As mentioned above, Gordon has five wins at Sonoma but none since 2006. He's having a great season so far and will try to get back to the winner's circle on Sunday.
Stewart will be looking to win his third title, while Martin Truex Jr. will be seeking to defend his win from last year. Other past champions in the field include Johnson, Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch.