There’s always a lot to speak about when NASCAR goes road racing. This year, more than any, it has become one of the biggest points on the season. Seven road courses on the schedule, with only four being tracks NASCAR has been to in the past.
Quite a bit of debate came from Circuit of the Americas, whether it was from qualifying to the race, but mostly because of Mother Nature.
There is no debate on rain this weekend at Sonoma, namely because the rain is nonexistent, as is normally the case in Sonoma Valley this time of year. But, lost in all the debate of who’s the one to beat, greatest road racer of all time, and the ever important discussion of the reintroduction of the carousel that returned back in 2019. is the fact that this event is actually happening.
Put this into perspective, the last race that happened of any type in California came in early March of last year. Think about it, over 15 months since NASCAR has been to California. Sonoma lost it’s race last year due to the pandemic and state restrictions. Even this year’s race at Auto Club Speedway got taken away, moved to the Daytona Road Course.
The state of California has not had any NASCAR, or for that matter any racing, in over a year. In and of itself, this race is a milestone in the post-pandemic era of the sport.
This is also a signal for how much NASCAR has recovered since last May when it returned as fans continued to slowly be allowed to return to the track. Sonoma will not have a capacity crowd, but every ticket that could be sold was bought. Fans in California have been longing for the sport to come back, almost feeling robbed of the sport they enjoy.
Drivers have missed Sonoma, it’s a road course that has so much of a challenge, more than likely even the new ones on the track that haven’t been ran yet. It’s not a track that can truly be compared to those on the schedule. Places like Daytona and Charlotte, and now Indianapolis, they are their own entity since they combine some road racing but also oval-track racing. Circuit of the Americas, along with Road America, they are long tracks, and present their own challenges their own.
Watkins Glen could be considered the “speedy” course because of fewer turns and a higher pace, but Sonoma, it is a methodical track.
There’s so many more passing opportunities, from the second turn, then at the top of the hill, the carousel, and the infamous 180-degree turn 11.
This place is about handling from a crew standpoint and decision-making from the driver. You combine that with the fact this is the first race at Sonoma in almost two years, and these teams are doing so with no practice, no qualifying, and no idea how the track is except from past notes, and the ARCA event.
But every driver, if they haven’t already, is wanting to get that trophy on Sunday, just so they can enjoy the taste of that Sonoma wine from the trophy.
Welcome back to wine country, so let’s dust off those glasses and toast to Sonoma.