Oh how it is fun to be in Sonoma Valley. Of all the road courses that the circuit goes to each year, they each have their own personality. Watkins Glen has higher speeds, Road America is a long and grueling lap, and of course the Roval has it’s own characteristics of being part speedway and part back roads.
Something about Sonoma makes coming here just a bit different. It could be the fact the scenery is more of a sophisticated type, while also having the classic NASCAR fan enjoy the action.
What track literally has a giant wine glass as the trophy and has the winning driver take a sip of some of the best wine in the country?
The one thing about Sonoma Raceway, which for me when I first started watching the sport was called Sears Point, it seems as though every year it goes through a bit of a change to make it more challenging for the drivers. In the 90’s, I recall when the track decided to eliminate running the carousel and instead add on the stretch between turns 4 and 7, then they adjusted it more to make it go from a sweeping straightaway to more of a passing zone on both ends. That certainly made for some interesting moments.
Last year, after having to take a year off because of the pandemic restrictions in California, the track brought the carousel back for it’s return and it changed how every driver ran the track since most of them had never ran that part of the circuit. A majority of them were so used to heading down the hill and hard brake into the straightaway that coming down from turn 4 and then having to loop immediately inward.
Now, it’s back to the layout many of us have become familiar with in adding the straightaway and a couple pairs of strong passing zones.
This is probably why Sonoma is one of the more technical road courses to run on. That’s not taking anything from COTA or Road America, but this track is quick reaction, quick corners, and making sure the transmission is up to the quick shifts.
With this new sequential shifter, not to mention having a fifth gear for certain times, it could be one interesting event.
We are dusting off a race in wine country, and there’s no finer sip than after 110 laps to taste the fruits of the vineyards nearby directly from the trophy. Just remember, when cooking with some of Sonoma’s best, if you won’t drink it from a glass, don’t add it to your meal.