June 12, 2021

NASCAR at Sonoma: How to watch Toyota Save Mart 350, starting lineup, race predictions

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NASCAR is following up a crown jewel event last weekend at Charlotte with a road course race out west.

The Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California this Sunday for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The race starts at 4 p.m. on FS1.

The trip marks NASCAR’s return to the 12-turn course after last year’s Cup race at Sonoma was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The raceway announced Tuesday that it had sold out tickets for its allotted 33% capacity and, according to the The Press Democrat, is hoping for a turnout of around 15,000 people.

Multiple tracks announced earlier this week that they will reopen to fans at full capacity for upcoming race weekends, meaning a majority are back to 100% grandstand seating since operating with some form of attendance restrictions during the pandemic. Plans for Watkins Glen, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway remain unclear, although Indianapolis hosted a sellout crowd at 40% capacity, or around 135,000 fans, for the Indy 500 last weekend.

Sonoma will be the third of seven road course races on the Cup schedule, which includes Road America in July, Watkins Glen and Indy in August and the Charlotte Roval in October. Chase Elliott won the last road course race, a rain-shortened event, at Circuit of the Americas two weeks ago, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson won last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte oval.

Larson will start on the pole this weekend with Elliott in the front row, followed by Hendrick driver William Byron in third and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in fourth. Those four drivers make up the top-four in point standings, led by Hamlin.

Two-time defending Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr. will start the race in 19th after a recent string of bottom-half finishes. He has the second-best odds to win, according to BetMGM, at +375 after Elliott at +210.

The race will be 226.8 miles (90 laps) with stages ending on laps 20, 40 and 90.

Race predictions

While Truex might seem like a safe bet for Sonoma given his most wins there in 2018 and 2019, NASCAR is using a different, low downforce rules package (750 horsepower) on the Carousel configuration. That team also hasn’t put together top finishes in the last three races. If I were to pick a Gibbs driver to win, my money would be on Kyle Busch, who has one win in the last five races at the course, and hasn’t finished lower in seventh in those events. Additionally, Busch is coming off a third-place finish at Charlotte and a 10th place finish at COTA.

But this could easily be another week for a Hendrick win. Elliott finished third, first and second in the last three races, respectively, and continues to prove he’ll stay out front on road courses. Kyle Larson (+750) isn’t a bad pick either given how his year is trending. I predict a battle between any of those three — Elliott, Busch and Larson.

How and when to watch and listen

Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350

When: Sunday, June 6

When: 4 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 226.8 miles (90 laps) with stages ending on laps 20, 40 and 90.

Starting lineup

Order

Driver

Car No.

1

Kyle Larson

5

2

Chase Elliott

9

3

William Byron

24

4

Denny Hamlin

11

5

Kyle Busch

18

6

Austin Dillon

3

7

Alex Bowman

48

8

Kevin Harvick

4

9

Brad Keselowski

2

10

Tyler Reddick

8

11

Ryan Blaney

12

12

Chris Buescher

17

13

Joey Logano

22

14

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

47

15

Bubba Wallace

23

16

Daniel Suárez

99

17

Matt DiBenedetto

21

18

Erik Jones

43

19

Martin Truex Jr.

19

20

Christopher Bell

20

21

Michael McDowell

34

22

Corey LaJoie

7

23

Cole Custer

41

24

Ryan Newman

6

25

Chase Briscoe

14

26

Aric Almirola

10

27

Ryan Preece

37

28

Anthony Alfredo

38

29

Ross Chastain

42

30

Kurt Busch

1

31

Ben Rhodes

77

32

James Davison

15

33

Quin Houff

0

34

Garrett Smithley

53

35

Scott Heckert

78

36

Josh Bilicki

52

37

Cody Ware

51

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