THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR heads to Wine Country at Sonoma
For the first time in two years, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Wine Country at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. This is truly a step in the right direction as NASCAR and the world continues to try to get back to normal after this pandemic. For many in California, this will be their first experience at a sporting event in quite some time as it was announced earlier this year that they will allow fans to attend. They will also be running on a much different track layout and will bring back the carousel section around turn five. This section of the track will be interesting considering the massive elevation change we see from turns four and five. This will be a brand-new obstacle to the drivers considering no one has competed on this layout of racetrack.
Last week, Kyle Larson annihilated the field en route to his second victory of 2021. He led over three hundred laps and was never really challenged at any point of the race. This was a promising sign for Larson considering the hard time he has had at finishing races. If he can continue this, he is going to easily be the favorite to win the championship going to Phoenix. Whether it's been at road courses, intermediates or short tracks he has run exceptionally fast everywhere he has raced at. Look out for the #5 to continue to set the tone for the season.
The rumor mill is getting wilder and wilder as we get into the summer. The latest rumor involves Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin's new team 23XI and their expansion to two teams next season. While there have been many candidates that have been linked to this ride, it was reported that NASCAR veteran Kurt Busch has been listed as the favorite. This really surprised a lot of people considering Kurt is the eldest driver in the field, but overall I think this would be a genius move. Kurt is an accomplished veteran who can offer a lot of great insight for Bubba Wallace and can give a lot of great feedback to the team. It will be interesting to see how this all works and what kind of team they put behind Busch and who his crew chief may be. The other question will be who Chip Ganassi puts in the #1 car next season. Will he go with a veteran like Ryan Newman who can help Ross Chastain, or will he go younger and get a prospect driver like Josh Berry or Noah Gragson? Only time will tell. I look forward to seeing how this story develops.
A driver who has really flown under the radar over the last couple of weeks has been Tyler Reddick. He has finished in the top ten in back to back weeks, including a surprising eight place finish at Circuit of the Americas where he won the pole. There were a lot of eyes on the second year driver after an impressive rookie season, but now he is really building off of that and can be a contender to not only make the playoffs but win a race as well. Look for him to be a threat to go to victory lane this season.
The driver that I have winning this week is Chase Elliott. When your nickname is the King of the Road, it's hard to bet against someone who has six road course victories. Now Sonoma hasn't been a track that Elliott has accumulated a lot of success at but with a front row starting spot come Sunday, he will have plenty of track position to help him out. Plus, he drives for the hottest race team in NASCAR as well, so that definitely helps out. I look for Elliott to capture his second win of the season and his seventh road course victory.