Driver Handicaps: Sonoma

Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose

Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose each have posted an average finish of 5.5 in the last four races at Sonoma. (Photo: Getty Images)

Driver Averages |  Loop Data eBook (pdf) Driver Ratings Past Winners

To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com's Jeff Wackerlin brings you his weekly detailed analysis to help steer you toward Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Who's HOT at Sonoma
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with five wins and has finished in the top 10 in his last seven starts.
• Defending race winner Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six starts.
• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the last four races, including a win in 2010.
• Marcos Ambrose has a 5.5 average finish in his last four starts.
• Tony Stewart has nine top 10s in 14 starts, including two wins.
• Kurt Busch, the 2011 winner, has posted a 2.0 average finish in his last two starts.

Who to Keep an Eye On at Sonoma
• Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 2007 race, has the fifth-best driver rating in the last eight Sonoma races. Along with his teammate Jamie McMurray, Montoya tested at Virginia International Raceway last month in preparation for Sonoma.
• Boris Said (No. 32 Ford), Jacques Villeneuve (No. 51 Chevrolet), Ron Fellows (No. 33 Chevrolet), Justin Marks (No. 7 Chevrolet) are among the "road course aces" that will each make their first Sprint Cup start of the season this weekend. 
• Last week's winner Greg Biffle finished in the top 10 in both road-course races in 2012.
• Carl Edwards, who finished third at Sonoma in 2011, tested at Virginia International Raceway last month.
• Kevin Harvick has posted a 9.3 average finish in his last four starts at Sonoma.
• Kyle Busch won the 2008 race and has led the most laps (88) among all drivers in the last five races at Sonoma.
• Aric Almirola has yet to post a finish inside the top 25 in two Sonoma starts, but looks to improve after testing at the track last month with teammate Marcos Ambrose.
• Brian Vickers, who is the only driver pulling double duty at Sonoma/Road America, finished fourth last season in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing.
• Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano each tested at both Virginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta.

Note: Teams will be running run a new tire code at Sonoma this weekend which will feature a slight compound change and a reduction in thread thickness. This code is the same for the right-side tires at Martinsville Speedway.

Be sure to check back with MotorRacingNetwork.com on Friday for the practice speeds.

Sonoma Qualifying Facts

*Active Pole Leaders
*Best Starting Average
Races Won from Starting Pos.
1. Jeff Gordon - 5
1. Marcos Ambrose - 5.0
Pole - 5 times
2. Kasey Kahne - 2
2. Jeff Gordon - 7.4
Top Five - 14 times
3. Six drivers with 1
3. Kurt Busch - 10.3
Top 10 - 18 times
4. Kasey Kahne - 10.9
Top 15 - 22 times
Ryan Newman - 10.9
Worst - 32nd, one time

* - Must be entered in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

*Best Average Finish at Sonoma

Last # of Races
Driver
Avg. Fin.
Two Races
Kurt Busch
2.0
Four Races
Jimmie Johnson
4.2
Six Races
Jeff Gordon
5.3
Eight Races
Jeff Gordon
8.2
10 Races
Jeff Gordon
6.9

* - The best average finish is based off a driver who has competed in every race during that time span.

Gen-6 Car Performers (15 Races) 

Wins
Top Fives
Top 10s
1. Jimmie Johnson - 3
1. Jimmie Johnson - 7
1. Jimmie Johnson - 9
Matt Kenseth - 3
Kyle Busch - 7
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 9
2. Kevin Harvick - 2
3. Kasey Kahne - 5
Kyle Busch - 9
Kyle Busch - 2
Brad Keselowski - 5
2. Four drivers with 8
3. Five drivers with 1
Carl Edwards - 5
Laps Led
Average Finish
Poles
1. Kyle Busch - 955
1. Jimmie Johnson - 9.5
1. Denny Hamlin - 3
2. Matt Kenseth - 922 
2. Carl Edwards - 10.9
2. Kyle Busch - 2
3. Jimmie Johnson - 744
3. Clint Bowyer - 11.5
Matt Kenseth - 2 
4. Kasey Kahne - 400
4. Kevin Harvick - 13.0
3.  Five drivers with 1
5. Denny Hamlin - 203
5. Brad Keselowski - 13.8

Sonoma Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2012, 8 Races)

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Tony Stewart
1. Marcos Ambrose
1. Kurt Busch - 9.2
2. Juan Pablo Montoya
2. Tony Stewart
2. Tony Stewart - 9.9
3. Marcos Ambrose
3. Kurt Busch
3. Marcos Ambrose - 10.9
4. Kyle Busch
4. Clint Bowyer
4. Juan Pablo Montoya - 11.8
5. Kurt Busch
5. Brian Vickers
5. Jeff Gordon - 12.5
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Tony Stewart - 706
1. Tony Stewart - 252
1. Kurt Busch - 107.8
2. Kurt Busch - 705
2. Jeff Gordon - 206
2. Tony Stewart - 107.5
3. Jimmie Johnson - 625
3. Jimmie Johnson - 204 
3. Marcos Ambrose - 106.8
4. Jeff Gordon - 593
4. Juan Pablo Montoya - 195
4. Jeff Gordon - 101.1
5. Ryan Newman - 571
5. Marcos Ambrose - 187
5. Juan Pablo Montoya - 97.8

*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating: Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


For a look at all the pre-race Loop Data for Sonoma, view the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Pre-Race Loop Data eBook (pdf)

Season Loop Data Leaders

*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Matt Kenseth
1. Matt Kenseth
1. Jimmie Johnson - 6.7
2. Kyle Busch
2. Jimmie Johnson
2. Matt Kenseth - 7.4
3. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
3. Kyle Busch - 12.1
4. Kasey Kahne
4. Kevin Harvick
4. Kevin Harvick - 12.2
5. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski
5. Clint Bowyer - 12.4
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Matt Kenseth - 4203
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 788
1. Matt Kenseth - 114.6
2. Jimmie Johnson - 4181
2. Martin Truex Jr. - 750
2. Jimmie Johnson -113.4
3. Kevin Harvick - 4095
3. Joey Logano - 737
3. Kyle Busch - 104.8
4. Clint Bowyer - 3645
4. Clint Bowyer - 728
4. Kasey Kahne - 99.4
5. Kyle Busch - 3528
5. Kevin Harvick - 721
5. Kevin Harvick - 96.0

*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating: Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


MotorRacingNetwork.com Writer Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Marcos Ambrose
Pete Pistone: Tony Stewart
Dustin Long: Jacques Villeneuve
John Singler: Tony Stewart

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings
(All stats/notes are in regards to Sonoma unless noted)

Jimmie Johnson: Has finished seventh or better in the last four races, including a win in 2010; Second in average finish (6.0) and laps led (82) among drivers that have competed in the last five races.

Carl Edwards: Last of three top 10s (third) in eight starts came in 2011; Seventh-best average finish (15.0) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 853) in the Toyota/Save Mart 350; This is the car he tested at Virginia International Raceway in May.

Clint Bowyer: Defending race winner; Win was second consecutive top five and fifth top 10 in seven starts; Third-best average finish (9.6) and fourth in laps led (73) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Tested at Virginia Internatonal Raceway.

Kevin Harvick: 9.3 average finish in last three starts; Best finish (second) came in the 2007 race - the first road course race with the COT Gen-5 chassis; Will return in the same chassis (No. 395) that he last finished 15th with at Watkins Glen International.

Matt Kenseth: Only top 10 in 13 starts came in 2008; 16.6 average finish in the last five races; Making first road course start with Joe Gibbs Racing; Tested at Virginia Internatonal Raceway.

Kyle Busch: Winner of the 2008 race; Win was last of two top 10s in eight starts; 18.0 average finish and the most laps led (88) among all drivers in the last five races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in 13 starts; Finished 11th three times, last coming in 2010; 22.6 average finish in the last five races; Tested at Carolina Motorsports Park; Will return in the same chassis (No. 747) that he last finished 28th with at Watkins Glen International.

Greg Biffle: Coming off fourth top 10 (seventh) in 10 starts; Eighth-best average finish (15.2) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 764) that he finished sixth with at Watkins Glen International last season.

Brad Keselowski: 19.0 average finish in three starts; Best finish (10th) came in 2011; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 837) that he last finished sixth with at Martinsville Speedway; Tested at both Virginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta.

Tony Stewart: Last of two wins came in 2005 with Joe Gibbs Racing; 13.0 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Fourth-best average finish (12.4) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will return in the same chassis (No. 731) that he started 24th and finished second with last year at Sonoma.

Paul Menard: 22.8 average finish in five starts; Will return in the same chassis he races to respective finishes of 17th and 20th in 2011 and 2012 at Sonoma.

Kasey Kahne: Won the 2009 race with Richard Petty Motorsports; Finished 14th last season in first track start with Hendrick Motorsports; Sixth-best average finish (14.4) among drivers that have competed in the last five races; Will debut a new chassis (No. 802) that he tested at Carolina Motorsports Park.

Martin Truex Jr: Only top 10 (eighth) in seven starts came in 2011; 22.6 average finish in the last five races; 24.0 average finish in three starts with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Joey Logano: Has finished in the top 10 in last two starts; 17.0 average finish in four starts; Will make first track start with Penske Racing in a new car (chassis No. 835); Tested at both Virginia International Raceway and Road Atlanta.

Aric Almirola: 28.0 average finish in two starts; Tested at Sonoma last month with teammate Marcos Ambrose.

Jeff Gordon: Last of five wins came in 2006; Has finished ninth or better in the last seven races; Leads all drivers with a 5.0 average finish in the last five races.

Jeff Burton: 21.2 average finish in the last five races; Last of five top 10s (third) in 19 starts came in 2007; Will return in the same chassis (No. 357) that he finished 11th and 30th, respectively, at Sonoma and Watkins Glen International last season.

Ryan Newman: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Last of five top 10s (seventh) came in 2008 with Penske Racing; 16.6 average finish in the last five races; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 545) that he tested on June 13 at Virginia International Raceway; This car last seen competitive action on 2010 at Watkins Glen where he finished 12th.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr: Making first track start; Tested at Virginia Internatonal Raceway; Will return in the same chassis (No. 816) that Carl Edwards last drove to a 14th-place finish at Watkins Glen International.

Kurt Busch: Won the 2011 race with Penske Racing; Finished third last season with Phoenix Racing; 16.6 average finish and third among laps led (79) among all drivers in the last five races; Tested at Virginia International Raceway in preparation for first track start with Furniture Row Racing.

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Untitled Document Sonoma Driver Stats - Last 8 Races

Driver Races Avg Start Avg Fin. Driver Rating
Kurt Busch 12 10.3 17.0 107.8
Tony Stewart 14 11.1 10.9 107.5
Marcos Ambrose 5 5.0 12.8 106.8
Jeff Gordon 20 7.4 8.6 101.1
Juan Montoya 6 18.8 13.2 97.8
Jimmie Johnson 11 16.0 13.8 96.6
Clint Bowyer 7 17.1 9.7 93.3
Kyle Busch 8 17.6 18.6 92.8
Ryan Newman 11 10.9 12.9 89.9
Carl Edwards 8 19.6 17.1 84.9
Jamie McMurray 10 15.0 17.1 84.4
Kevin Harvick 12 16.7 16.1 82.2
Kasey Kahne 9 10.9 22.0 81.1
Denny Hamlin 7 20.7 22.9 81.1
Jeff Burton 19 21.4 19.8 80.8
Greg Biffle 10 16.4 14.9 79.3
Martin Truex Jr. 7 16.7 21.7 78.3
Joey Logano 4 11.8 17.0 78.2
Brad Keselowski 3 21.3 19.0 75.6
Matt Kenseth 13 19.4 20.8 74.9
Brian Vickers 7 22.4 20.0 72.7
Ron Fellows 8 19.6 23.3 71.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 13 20.9 22.2 65.3
David Gilliland 7 30.1 21.1 59.2
Casey Mears 9 29.0 19.7 57.7
Paul Menard 5 20.6 22.8 57.7
Bobby Labonte 20 18.1 20.1 57.4
David Ragan 6 36.7 27.8 50.7
Aric Almirola 2 35.0 28.0 47.9
J.J. Yeley 4 36.5 28.3 46.0
Dave Blaney 12 27.2 31.6 45.6
David Reutimann 4 37.3 28.8 44.8
Travis Kvapil 4 39.8 25.8 43.0
David Stremme 2 39.5 35.5 42.6
Josh Wise 1 40.0 30.0 41.6
Tomy Drissi 1 41.0 38.0 31.6
Paythefan
Sonoma Green Flag Passes

Number of passes a driver had under green conditions in the last eight races at Sonoma.

Rank Driver Green Flag Passes
1 Carl Edwards 515
2 Jeff Burton 487
3 Clint Bowyer 476
4 Matt Kenseth 464
5 David Gilliland 458
6 Kevin Harvick 455
7 Ryan Newman 448
7 Martin Truex Jr. 448
9 Bobby Labonte 443
10 Greg Biffle 441
10 Jamie McMurray 441
12 Jeff Gordon 439
13 David Ragan 434
14 Tony Stewart 433
15 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 431
16 Brian Vickers 411
17 Kasey Kahne 403
18 Juan Pablo Montoya 396
19 Casey Mears 386
20 A J Allmendinger 384
21 Denny Hamlin 382
22 Kyle Busch 377
23 Paul Menard 368
24 Jimmie Johnson 350
25 Kurt Busch 347
26 Dave Blaney 336
27 Joey Logano 326
28 Elliott Sadler 320
29 Marcos Ambrose 303
30 Terry Labonte 286
31 David Reutimann 285
32 Mark Martin 284
33 Ron Fellows 272
34 Joe Nemechek 255
35 Brad Keselowski 243
36 Regan Smith 227
37 Scott Speed 224
38 Travis Kvapil 186
39 Michael Waltrip 184
40 J.J. Yeley 182
41 David Stremme 147
42 Sam Hornish Jr. 139
43 Michael McDowell 106
44 Aric Almirola 76
45 Scott Riggs 65
46 Ken Schrader 45
47 Josh Wise 41
48 Landon Cassill 28
49 Tomy Drissi 16
50 Mike Bliss 12

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