The first road race of the year beckons this week as NASCAR heads to Napa Valley and Sonoma Raceway. This isn’t your standard Sonoma that we’ve seen over the last 20 years though as they brought back the traditional layout for Sonoma with the Carousel back in place instead of the Chute that’s been used in its place. The change to the Carousel adds about a half-mile to the length of the track as well as a couple more turns and adds a new passing section or two to the track. It also makes it a tad more technical of a drive than it has been previously.
If you look at the track breakdown and the practice notes you will gather several interesting tidbits about the track and drivers history’s here in addition to checking out the practice to qualifying table at the top of the practice notes. However, a tidbit that wasn’t previously included is this: 16 of the last 18 winners here have been 30 or older at the time of the win, though that stat doesn’t include the Carousel being a part of the layout. Another tidbit buried in the podcast, which you should also listen to, is that no driver making their first run on a Cup series road course has a top-10 finish this decade and there are three drivers in the field that that pertains to in Ryan Preece, Matt Tifft, and Justin Haley.
Strategy for this race is all about position differential and maximizing finish position. Laps led, Fastest laps, and laps completed won’t add much to the score since there are only 90 laps in the race total. Speaking of laps, the stages are 20, 20, and 50 laps in length on Sunday meaning that there will only be three pit stops necessary if there aren’t any cautions aside from the stage cautions, though that’s unlikely to happen given the history at this track and the new layout which was wreaking havoc with some drivers during practice.
Prop Bet Challenge
- The last two Sonoma winners did not score any stage points. Will this trend continue? I’m going to say NO because I think it’s odd that in back-to-back years the winners didn’t finish in the Top 10 in either stages of either race. Seems more like an anomaly than a trend. I’m going to say the race winner on Sunday bucks this trend and scores a stage point.
- O/U 11.5 lead changes? If you look at the last two races there were fewer than 11 lead changes. I’m going to go with the trend this week and take the UNDER because if you check out the Track Breakdown from Matt he notes that the race NASCAR is incorporating the Carousel portion of this track which hasn’t been used in a couple decades. He notes that this should increase passing opportunities as well so while you’d think it could increase more lead changes keep in mind that the race decreases from 110 laps to 90 laps with the installment of the Carousel. Fewer laps means fewer opportunities for lead changes. Give me the under.
- Which driver will score more race points at Sonoma? Chase Elliott or Denny Hamlin? Both drivers have similar results over the last two years at Sonoma. I’m going to go with Chase Elliott it’s mostly the eyeball test. I just like how his car has looked so far this season even though I know Hamlin’s picked up a pair of wins.
- O/U 1.5 drivers lead 25 laps? This is really tough. Similar to the second prop it’s difficult to look at previous races since this will technically be a different track with 20 fewer laps. With only 90 laps on tap for Sunday I’m going to take the UNDER.
- Will the polesitter lead the first eight laps? Kyle Larson is on the pole and we discussed on the podcast how he’s a big fade this week. The fact he qualified first means he can only go backwards and I don’t expect him to lead the first eight laps.
- O/U 25.5 stage points for Stewart-Haas Racing? I feel like 25.5 stage points is reasonable between four guys. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer have a pretty solid history at Sonoma. If Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola can mix in a couple points as well then 26 is a relatively reasonable number to attain. I’ll take the OVER.
- Which JTG Daugherty Racing driver finishes higher? Chris Buescher or Ryan Preece? I’m going to take Chris Buescher in this prop. He’s been a DFS darling this season. He’s typically affordable on DraftKings and he’s been returning solid value. In two races at Sonoma he has a pair of Top 20 finishes. Last year he started 25th and finished up to 12th. Ryan Preece hasn’t run a NASCAR race at Sonoma so this is a new frontier for the rookie.
- O/U 27.5 race points for Jimmie Johnson? I’ll begrudgingly take the OVER. I try to avoid JJ in DFS because he just doesn’t return the value he has in the past, but if just talking race points then 27.5 is feasible and I’ll say he goes over. He does have a pretty strong resume at Sonoma. However, his 2019 performance has left much to be desired.
- Only six drivers entered in the race have previously won at Sonoma. Will Sunday produce a first time Sonoma winner? So for a quick history lesson, the six drivers who have previously won at Sonoma are Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson. So answering “no” would mean you’re picking one of those drivers to win. Given that this is a new Sonoma track that none of the drivers have raced on I’ll take the field and say Yes, and bet against the big names listed above… Which I’m not feeling particularly great about.
- Will Sunday’s race winner have O/U 2.5 pit stops? I’m going to take the OVER. I consulted Matt on this one and to win this race with just two pit stops would take an awful lot. This track eats tires similar to Atlanta. It’s more likely the winner requires three trips down pit road.