Sonoma Rear View Mirror


Carl Edwards held off Jeff Gordon to win his second race of the season joining Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. notching multiple victories this year. (Photo: Getty Images)


NASCAR road racing used to be an acquired taste for fans. Now it’s something most can’t get enough of.

Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway was the latest example of stock car road racing’s renaissance.

The tight, 1.99-mile California road circuit is more reminiscent of a short track with tight action, close quarters, side-by-side racing, rumpled sheet metal and high emotions. All were on display on Sunday.

Despite an anti-climactic finish when Jeff Gordon wasn’t able to run down and challenge eventual race winner Carl Edwards for the win, the race was a nice shot in the arm to a season that had hit a stretch of a few less than compelling outings.

The year’s second road course event at Watkins Glen is more than a month away but the memory banks of many drivers are no doubt filled with perceived wrongdoings by others.

Which will add to the anticipation for the annual August trip to upstate New York.

  • The pressure was on the unlikely duo of Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger Sunday and both came away with disappointing days. Ambrose continues to be one of the best road racers in NASCAR and the Richard Petty Motorsports team looked at Sonoma as a place for success especially after the No. 9 team took part in a Goodyear tire test at the track. But Ambrose qualified in the middle of the pack and although he worked his way to the front and the lead was not a factor for the victory after getting shuffled back in the field late. Allmendinger led 35 laps and had the huge crowd cheering when he wrestled the lead away from Jamie McMurray early. But contact after an incident with Dale Earnhardt Jr. later in the race ended the day for the upstart JTG Daugherty Racing team. What was probably the best shot for Ambrose and Allmendinger to take advantage of the new “win in your in” Chase format wound up as a frustrating afternoon in wine country.
  • Maybe I’m wrong but if Kyle Busch won an ARCA and K&N Pro Series West race this month thousands of fans would be outraged. But here’s Kyle Larson doing just that and all seems quiet on the western front. Larson was one of five Sprint Cup Series regulars taking part in Saturday’s K&N West race at Sonoma to get experience on the tight road course and he wound up going to Victory Lane. With four of his Cup compadres also in the field, attention on the race was far greater than what it would have been with just the division’s regular drivers competing. It’s a similar scenario to Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide and Truck Series, but there seems to be a difference of opinion among fans at least when it comes to Busch.
  • The summer months are going to be stressful for Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing as the saga of the trio’s future wears on. Despite reports last week that Edwards was headed to JGR in a deal that would see the M&M’s sponsorship move to his team, there is nothing concrete to report on any front. Edwards has a contract that stipulates him from talking about any future move until September and JGR president J.D. Gibbs said over the weekend his team has nothing to share about 2015. The uncertainty definitely has the possibility of becoming more of a distraction for everyone involved as the year moves on.
  • For only the third time in history the Nationwide Series competed in the rain Saturday at Road America. And for the third time what was intriguing when it started turned into a mess. There’s no denying the finish of the Gardner Denver 200 was exciting but it had nothing to do with racing in the rain. By then teams went back to slick tires because the track had dried and the battle between eventual winner Brendan Gaughan, Alex Tagliani, Chase Elliott and Kevin O’Connell was just a by product of hard road racing. NASCAR did its best to manage the changing weather situation that teetered between showers and sunshine. But even with grooved tires, drivers had their hands full with cars careening off course and into one another due mostly by the lack of wet weather experience from behind the wheel. I’m well aware that open wheel and sports cars race in wet weather but for my money stock cars in the rain is and always will be a bad idea.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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