Five Drivers Set for Sonoma Tune-Up
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on June 18, 2014 | 4:35 P.M. EST
Austin Dillon amd Kyle Larson will compete in the Carneros 200 to gain some experience at the demanding northern California road course. (Photo: Getty Images)
Five Sprint Cup Series drivers have entered Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma Raceway to tune-up for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier will all compete in the Carneros 200 to gain some experience at the demanding northern California road course.
Although he’s a California native, this weekend marks Larson’s first visit to Sonoma as a driver. The Chip Ganassi Racing rookie comes into Sunday’s race eighth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings and has been impressive in the season’s first 15 races.
Larson is the 2012 K&N Pro Series East champion will be making his debut in the West division Saturday afternoon.
Like Larson, Dillon has never competed at Sonoma or in a Sprint Cup Series road race for that matter. The Richard Childress Racing driver does have six career Nationwide Series road races on his resume but knows he needs to go to school in order to be competitive at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile Sonoma circuit.
"You try and research the track as much as possible,” Dillon said. “I've got Max Papis, who has run there before, I use notes from him. I'll be out there a few extra days just to kind of get a hold of the track."
Annett is another Sonoma newbie who will also make his K&N Pro Series West debut. The Tommy Baldwin Racing Sprint Cup driver will pilot a No. 31 Chevy for Steve Portenga Racing in Saturday’s race.
Like his fellow competitors, Annett isn’t sure what to expect but know he’ll have to be a quick study.
"It's my first time at Sonoma, so I'm not sure what all is in store, but I have taken precautions,” Annett said. “I'll watch in-car videos of previous races right up until I get on the track. Running in the K&N West race for TMC and Steve Portenga Racing will also be a big benefit. The entire weekend will be a learning process for me."
The lone driver of the foursome with Sonoma experience is Stenhouse Jr., who made his debut last year as part of his Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year campaign. Stenhouse piloted his Roush Fenway Racing Ford home to a 27th-place finish a year ago but believes the experience will be beneficial this time around.
“Last year was my first time racing at Sonoma and I learned a few things that make me more confident going into this weekend,” said Stenhouse Jr. “We have also done some road course testing this season because seat time is so valuable. I’m going to run the K&N race on Saturday so that should help me get more familiar with the track and should help me get ready for Sunday.
“I think if we can leave Sonoma with a top-20 finish then it would be a successful weekend for us.”
Allgaier will race the No. 83 Grigg Brothers/BRANDT Chevrolet for Admiraal Racing after scoring his best Cup Series finish of his young career last weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
"My team had a great weekend at Michigan and I'm hoping that momentum can carry into this weekend," Allgaier said. "I've never raced at Sonoma so I will have a pretty steep learning curve."