Sonoma Raceway and the Toyota/Save-Mart 350 is the next stop on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. As the second road course race of the year it provides a unique challenge with not only right turns but also a repave. They race here just once a year and it’s unlike any other road course on the schedule which adds a challenge too. Based on what we’ve seen this weekend at practice, we could be in for a fun Sunday of racing just outside of Napa Valley wine country. Just what does the repave mean for NASCAR DFS? Is there anything we can take from the previous two Next Gen era races at Sonoma? Can we take anything from the other road course races on the schedule when building lineups? What is the strategy to win on DraftKings and FanDuel? All that and the top drivers to use for the Toyota/Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma.

What Does The Sonoma Repave Mean For Racing?

NASCAR thought so much of the repaved surface at Sonoma that they treated it like a new track for practice. Hence the reason the teams go a full, single, 50-minute session with all cars on the track at the same time. That’s great and dandy, but has it actually changed the track in a meaningful way? Based on practice it sure seemed like it. Ryan Blaney ran the fastest single lap in practice and it was 4.5 seconds faster than the pole winning time last year. Sure, teams get faster each time they came to a track but it wasn’t just the clock that showed it, the eye test did too. The cars simply looked faster in practice.

The speed in the track is great and all, after all we all want the fastest cars possible. However, how will this play out on Sunday? The likeliest result is that it makes passing tougher throughout the Green Flag stretches without tire wear being a problem either. Given that passing has been tough in this package in the Next Gen car as well, it’s setting up to be an interesting combo for Sunday.

Toyota/Save-Mart 350 Practice And Qualifying Results

The table below shows the qualifying and practice results for the Cup Series at Sonoma between Friday and Saturday. It’s sorted by starting order and shows the single-lap, 5-lap, and 10-lap averages in practice. It’s designed to show who may be able to move up and who may fall back in the field during the race.

DriverAvg. Prac to QualQual1-Lap5-Lap10-Lap
Joey Logano-151257 
Tyler Reddick-12230112
Ryan Blaney-13157
Chase Elliott-154533 
Kyle Larson-4514113
William Byron-76233 
Daniel Suarez-1572716 
Alex Bowman38483
Ross Chastain59921
Ty Gibbs4102412
AJ Allmendinger-51116  
Michael McDowell412610 
Carson Hocevar-8132120 
Todd Gilliland-5141918 
Christopher Bell-16153625 
Austin Dillon-3161126 
Corey Lajoie11720226
Bubba Wallace41822145
Noah Gragson919713 
Zane Smith92081510
Martin Truex Jr112110128
Harrison Burton-6222431 
Chase Briscoe-1233117 
Will Brown924328 
Denny Hamlin112517214
Chris Buescher1326189 
Justin Haley-9273734 
Austin Cindric4281336 
Kyle Busch1929156 
Ryan Preece93028279
Cam Waters-1313529 
Josh Berry15321223 
Ricky Stenhouse Jr7333419 
Daniel Hemric734383211
Brad Keselowski7353224 
Kaz Grala6362635 
John H. Nemechek6373330 
Erik Jones93829  

NASCAR Road Course Race Trends

Every road course is different. However, the style of racing is generally the same across multiple tracks. That’s especially true when we take out the more volatile tracks like first Indy Road, Road America, and the first COTA race. The table below shows the average stats for each category over the last 5 road course races in the Next Gen era. It’s not a apples to apples comparison but with the road racing discipline it’s a fairly solid representative of the strategy and trends to focus on.

When we look at some of the key trends, passing has been possible, sort of, in the back of the pack with about 4.5 drivers a race moving up double-digit spots. Whether that be due to crashes, passing, or pit strategy, either way moving up is possible. As for cracking the top-10, that’s a lot tougher. Less than 30% of the top-10 finishers started outside the top-12. In fact just 3 drivers to start P20 or worse made the top-10 across all 5 races and all started exactly P20. The other thing to keep in mind is that with the relatively few laps in the race, we’re unlikely to see a true laps led dominator and are more likely to see two drivers split most of them with a third nabbing a handful more.

Positive Place Differential132420211919.4
Six+ Place Differential Spots8111091210
Double-Digit Place Differential636444.6
Double-Digit Fast Laps213121.8
20+ Laps Led121121.4
50+ Laps Led001110.6
100+ Laps Led000000
Lead Lap Finishers343331223130.2
Top-10 Finishers Start>P124331328%
Laps Led From Top-106810390739293%

NASCAR DFS Strategy For Toyota/Save-Mart 350

Drivers with the best consistency on road courses are the ones we’re focusing on this week. Sure, we can sneak in a few odd balls who are looking good this week or may have an excuse or two for bad finishes. But in general, drivers starting in the top-half of the field are more likely to score well than the ones starting further back. That’s not for a fear of being lapped, but simply because it is hard to move up and make up ground the further back you’re running. There’s also a lack of cautions on road courses with all of the run off area and typically being single-car spins, the yellow doesn’t come out often for incidents. That by itself makes the field stretch out over the length of the track. The biggest chunk of points this week will be the finish position points and so maximizing those is important. Yet another reason to be careful loading up on too many starting in the back. Can we nab a couple outside the top-20 per build? Sure, there are three spots from P20-P38 that average top-15 points a race on both sites, however just don’t put more than two. As stated above, laps led are generally dominated by one driver or split by two so only having one could be just fine in either format as long as we maximize finish position.

Top Drivers To Play

Top Tier Salary Drivers

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is one of, if not, the best road racers in the Cup Series. He’s won Sonoma 4 times, including last year. The downside here is the price and where he qualified. While he’s self-admitted not a great qualifier here as he needs the rhythm of the track to gain speed, starting P21 is a bit disappointing. While he has the speed in the car, and the strategy in the pits, to nab a top-10 but to hit the value we’ll need top-five from him so there is risk here.

William Byron

Byron has two wins and a runner-up in the last three road races. Clearly he’s on a hot streak at this discipline. The hot streak seems to be continuing this weekend as well given the practice speed he showed on Friday. Starting P6 gives him a shot to lead laps and hang in the top-five all day as well as keeping him in the conversation for a win as well. His real competition this weekend will be his teammates as all four Hendrick cars appear to be game to win.

Tyler Reddick

Reddick looks to be regaining his road racing form that led him to winning multiple at one point. He’ll be starting P2 which makes him a threat to lead early laps if he gets the jump on Logano in the early, or opening, laps. The practice speed was there to for him to back up the P2 starting spot as he got faster the longer he was on the track. Expect him to be a popular spend up play this weekend but one that should pay off.

Chase Elliott

Did we all forget that he’s a talented and successful road racer? He’s starting P4 on Sunday which should make him a threat on a track he’s won on before. The Hendrick foursome all put up similar qualifying laps but it’s clearly Elliott that is the most talented road racer and perhaps the one hungriest to get back in the win column. He is a guy we can be looking to be underweight on in GPPs just in case his bad luck from the last few road races strikes again.

Mid-Tier Salary Drivers

Ty Gibbs

Gibbs is starting to fall under the underrated on road courses category. In his 9 Next Gen era Cup races at road courses, he has five top-10s and that includes three straight top-fives. The Toyotas have shown up well as a contingent at tracks like Sonoma in the past and he appears to have that speed again this weekend. Gibbs is also racking up lap time in the Xfinity race on Saturday which is sure to help him find some spots to gain speed for Sunday.

Chris Buescher

There has been no more consistent driver on road courses in the Next Gen era than Buescher. He’s posted an average finish of 8.5 over the 11 such races, but if we take out the P21 from the race, it drops to 7.2 over the last 10. That includes a 3.0 average at Sonoma. While the qualifying effort might have seemed disappointing, he has started P20 or worse five time in the 11 road races and P17 or worse six times. So he’s adept at moving up to get the finishes he’s gotten. Expect more of the same this weekend given his far better practice runs.

Ross Chastain

It might surprise you to know that Chastain ranks tied for 4th for the most top-10s in the Next Gen era on road courses with 6. That’s just one behind Elliott and ties him with Allmendinger. Yep, Chastain has been good at them. He’ll start P9 on Sunday which makes him a threat for a top-five finish, especially with the speed he showed on Friday at practice.

Austin Cindric

Cindric’s racing bona fides are well-known. He’s also coming off a win, though he backed into. The man thing that we like about Cindric this weekend though is how well he works through traffic. That was on display here last year when he was seemingly the only one able to pass. We’re expecting this skill to show up again on Sunday, and frankly we’ll need it as he’s starting further back than expected. But hey, if he can move up there’s plenty of PD upside.

Alex Bowman

As we talked about on the pod, Bowman is an under-the-radar road course racer and his last several races show that. He has three top-10s in the last four road races and has speed in the 48-car this weekend, like the rest of his Hendrick teammates. Hist starting spot likely gives him a lower ceiling for scoring than we’d hoped but if he can nab a top-five finish there’s still enough value here to make him worth a play.

Joey Logano

What’s old is new again. It’s been 13 years since Logano has been on pole at a road course, coincidently it was also Sonoma. It’s been since 2015 that Logano has gotten a win on a road course. But a “new thing” is in his corner this week with the new pavement on the track. It’s been 2.5 years of Logano striking when new things or first time races happen and this weekend could count as that. The practice speeds weren’t great but they were allowed to make some changes before qualifying. Given how tough the passing could be, Logano should lead a chunk of laps early but may not ultimately win.

Value Tier Salary Drivers

Justin Haley

Haley didn’t look great at practice and then backed it up with what we expected for qualifying. He does have a pretty good history of finishing in the top-20 in his Cup career on road courses.  We’re going to need a bit of help for Haley to nab a good finish this weekend but he’s made a habit of outperforming expectations already this year.

Ryan Preece

This isn’t a short track Matt. It’s also not flat. I know but he’s been surprisingly successful, for him, on road courses in the Next Gen car. When we look at the 7 such races Preece has run, he’s averaged a 20.4 average finish with 4 top-20s and posting nearly 5 spots of PD a race. There’s also the fact that he’s averaged nearly 27 DK points a road race. Not to shabby for a guy who doesn’t get a ton of attention.

Zane Smith

Smith has a nice history of road race finishes in the lower series and nabbed a P20 earlier this year at COTA. He’ll start P20 this weekend and should be able to hold a spot near there given the practice speed and his ability with making right turns. Smith might be the most popular budget option but perhaps his starting spot scares some off.

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