There will be plenty of right and left turns as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, the first event on a Road Course in 2018. Based on recent track history, the chance for a new driver winning at the site is high, as nine different drivers have won the last 10 Sonoma races. Seven of those nine drivers won at the site for their first time in that span.
RACE PREVIEW FOR TOYOTA/SAVE MART 350
Post-Saturday Qualifying Update: Sonoma is one of the hardest tracks to score place differential in the Cup Series due to the smaller amount of passing lanes, which makes picking up positions difficult. Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch however, are two of the best picks for PD based on starting position. Bowyer starts 19th, was first in first practice, and had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Kurt Busch starts 23rd, was 14th in first practice, first in final practice, and had the second-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Both drivers have great history at Sonoma and have showcased better practice speeds than most, making them must-starts.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,700 on DraftKings, $12,000 on FanDuel) led the most laps at both road course events last season. He starts second at this year’s event, was eighth in first practice, and third in final practice. Truex has displayed better speeds compared to the drivers starting ahead and behind him throughout practices. He will lead the most laps because of his starting position, practice speeds, and how difficult it is to pass at Sonoma.
Denny Hamlin is another driver that must be placed in lineups based on PD. Hamlin starts 21st, was 17th in first practice, second in final practice, and had the sixth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. His practice speeds are better than most drivers starting ahead of him. Expect Hamlin to finish in the Top 10 at Sonoma for the third year in a row. All other driver outlooks remain much the same.
TOP PRICED PICKS
Kevin Harvick ($11,700 on DraftKings, $12,600 on FanDuel) is one of the strongest lineup options this week. He has finished sixth or better in his last three Sonoma appearances and is the most recent winner at the site. Since 2005 at Sonoma, Harvick has the fourth-best Average Finishing position (13.5) and ranks third in Laps in the Top 15 (930) and Driver Rating (91.3). Harvick continues to be one of the best performing drivers this season with Top 10 finishes in 12 of 15 races and has finished in the Top 5 in four of the last five races in 2018. Harvick has been very good in recent races at Sonoma and must be highly considered for lineups this week.
Kyle Busch ($11,200 on DraftKings, $12,200 on FanDuel) is the only active driver to have won at Sonoma more than once in the last 10 races at the track. He has finished seventh or better in his last three Sonoma starts and is enjoying his most consistent season to date in the Cup Series with 12 Top 10 finishes in 15 races. Kyle Busch has been one of the best fantasy performers regardless of track type in 2018 and Sonoma is a track that he believes will make him one of the favorites to win.
Joey Logano ($9,500 on DraftKings, $11,500 on FanDuel) is one of the better picks for this week’s race. Logano has finished 12th or better in six of his last seven starts at Sonoma with two Top 5 finishes in his last three. Logano has been one of the most consistent drivers this season, as he is one of only three drivers with 12 or more Top 10 finishes in 2018. He also finished with positive Place Differential in each of his last three Sonoma starts. The consistency Logano has shown at Sonoma and throughout this season makes him a driver you can count on for a good finish.
Clint Bowyer ($9,300 on DraftKings, $11,700 on FanDuel) is the one driver you must put in your lineup this week. Sonoma is Bowyer’s best track statistically with one win, nine Top 10 finishes, and an AFP of 10.6 in 12 starts at the site. He finished second at this race last season when he was new to Stewart-Haas Racing. The equipment has improved and Bowyer has gained more confidence since last season, making him a big threat to win for the third time in 2018.
Denny Hamlin ($9,100 on DraftKings, $11,000 on FanDuel) is a good contrarian pick for this week’s race at Sonoma. He only has one win on road courses throughout his entire career, but he performed well in his last two Sonoma starts, in which he finished in the Top 5 and led several laps. Hamlin has finished 12th or better in four of the last five races this season and finished in the Top 5 in his last two starts at Watkins Glen, another road course in the Cup Series. Hamlin has historically been at his worst at road courses, which might make some fantasy players avoid him. but his recent improved performances on the track type shows that he should be in your lineup this week.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Jimmie Johnson ($8,900 on DraftKings, $10,100 on FanDuel) has not been as strong of a fantasy performer as expected this season, but he will be a great performer this week. He has finished in the Top 15 in each of his Sonoma starts since 2008 and led laps in two of his last three. Johnson also has finished with positive PD in each of his last five starts at Sonoma. His statistics highlight the fact that Johnson is always a good choice at Sonoma.
Kurt Busch ($8,600 on DraftKings, $10,600 on FanDuel) is another great option for Sonoma. Kurt Busch has finished in the Top 10 in all but one of his starts at Sonoma since winning at the site in 2011. He has finished in the Top 10 in five of the last six races this season. Since 2005 at Sonoma, Kurt Busch ranks first in laps led (166), Laps in the Top 15 (1,130), Fastest Laps (88), ARP (9.9), and DR (107.5). Sonoma is one of Kurt Busch’s best tracks and with his team (Stewart-Haas Racing) being at the top of its game this season, expect Kurt Busch to be one of the ideal picks.
Jamie McMurray ($7,600 on DraftKings, $9,600 on FanDuel) is a driver that I like a lot this week for Sonoma. In 15 starts at the site, McMurray has eight Top 15 finishes, which include three of his last four starts at the track. McMurray has three Top 10 finishes in 2018, with two of them coming in the last three races. Sonoma is one of McMurray’s better tracks statistically and he has been solid in recent races at the site. Look for McMurray to score his fourth Top 10 of the season at Sonoma.
Ryan Newman ($7,300 on DraftKings, $8,000 on FanDuel) is the safest value pick for Sonoma. In 16 starts at the track, Newman has 11 Top 15 finishes, which include his last five starts. He only has one finish outside the Top 20 throughout his entire career at Sonoma. Newman has only three Top 10 finishes so far this season, but if there is any track where he has a good chance of scoring a Top 10, it’s Sonoma. Newman’s consistency at the track makes him a nice pick for his price.
Paul Menard ($6,800 on DraftKings, $8,500 on FanDuel) has finished in the Top 20 in each of his last seven starts at Sonoma. Menard also has finished with positive PD in five of his last six starts at the site. Menard is in better equipment this season compared to previous seasons, which will lead to a better performance this week at Sonoma. Look for Menard to finish in the Top 15.
Chris Buescher’s ($6,100 on DraftKings, $6,600 on FanDuel) best finish in two starts at Sonoma is 19th, which he scored last season. He led laps as well. Buescher has finished in the Top 20 in three of the last six races this season. Last year was his first start at Sonoma with JTG Daugherty Racing, which has performed well at prior road course events with his teammate A.J. Allmendinger. Buescher has more experience at road courses since his last start, and in the equipment he has this season. Look for Buescher to have a better result and to compete for a Top 15 finish.
Michael McDowell’s ($5,900 on DraftKings, $6,200 on FanDuel) best finish at Sonoma in six starts is 14th, which he scored last season. McDowell has three Top 25 finishes throughout his Cup Series career at Sonoma. He has an extensive road course racing background outside of NASCAR but, has never been able to properly showcase it due to poor equipment. McDowell has joined Front Row Motorsports this year, which will give him better equipment than previous seasons. The improved equipment and road course experience make McDowell one of the top bargains for this week’s race.