NASCAR heads to Wine Country for the Save Mart 350
This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Wine Country in Sonoma California for the Toyota Save Mart 350. This track is the first of three road courses on the schedule. Since 1989, this track has been one of NASCAR's most prolific tracks on the NASCAR racing circuit. This year the track will bring back the "carousel" around corners 4-7 to commemorate this track's rich fifty year history. This decision was met with great praise by fans and drivers alike as it adds a new dimension to the race. The section features an elevation change and plenty of passing zones. This should definitely be the place to watch come Sunday.
While the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series was on an off-week after Joey Logano went on to victory at Michigan, both the Gander Outdoor Truck and Xfinity Series drivers were in Iowa. While rising star Christopher Bell was easily able to race to victory in the Xfinity race, the controversy occurred during the truck race. Early on, Austin Hill and Johnny Sauter were involved in an altercation after Hill hit the right rear quarter panel of Sauter causing him to crash into the wall. During a caution period, Sauter retaliated by T-Boning Hill into the turn two wall. In response to this, NASCAR parked Sauter for the duration of the race.
To add insult to injury, on Tuesday it was announced that he would be suspended for this week's race at Gateway motor speedway. While many people didn't agree with NASCAR's sanctions, I think that it was the right call. What he did was inexcusable, he not only damaged his own truck more but he also nearly ruined Austin's day. While I can understand his frustration, wrecking someone under caution is not a move that will do you many favors with the powers that be. On the bright side, he will not lose his eligibility for the playoffs which would usually happen should a driver be suspension.
After all the dust settled, Ross Chastain went on to win his second race of the season until he failed post-race inspection after his truck was deemed too low. This gave the victory to second place finisher Brett Moffitt who led a grand total of zero laps. It was simply one of the most bizarre weekends in NASCAR history as a precedent has been set for drivers who fail inspection in all three levels of NASCAR. While I hate to see him lose a race in something that he didn't have a lot to do with, it is good to see NASCAR stick by the rules they set at the beginning of the season. It will definitely make drivers and teams think twice before they try and skate by the rules.
The driver that I have winning this week is Kurt Busch. Over the course of Kurt's Hall Of Fame worthy career, he has really evolved into one of the elite road course drivers on the grid. You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time Kurt finished outside of the top ten here. He just seems to know this track inside and out and while there will be a new layout this week, I think he will have no issue figuring out this race track. I look for Busch to continue his stellar 2019 with his first win of the season.
(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).