By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The first five races of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West were all contested at tracks that are 1/2 mile or less. That’ll change Saturday as 31 cars are scheduled to compete in the Carneros 200 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
It’s the tour’s only road course of the season, and certainly a wild card on the series calendar. More so that five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are added into the mix. The five are Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman and William Byron, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez, and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola.
Since the series returned to Sonoma in 2006, the Cup drivers have won 7 out of the last 12, including Kevin Harvick, who became the first driver to sweep the weekend at ‘Wine Country.’ Harvick will not defend his race win, giving the field an open opportunity to break through and outperform the premiere drivers.
Former K&N Pro Series West champion Derek Thorn enters Sonoma with a narrow two-point lead over Ryan Partridge after scoring a win at Colorado National Speedway June 9, his first since his 2013 championship campaign.
The 32-year-old from Lakeport California, along with 2015 Sonoma winner David Mayhew, are the only drivers on the grid with a K&N victory at the 1.990-mile road course.
“Sonoma is the closest track we race at to my hometown of Lakeport so I find it fitting to get to represent my good friend right in our backyard,” Thorn said. “I really hope we can carry the momentum we’ve had so far this year into this weekend and do S&S Insulation, Sunrise Ford and all our partners proud in front of some hometown fans.”
By the Numbers
What: Carneros 200, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Race 6
Where: Sonoma Raceway – Sonoma, California (Opened: 1968)
TV: NBCSN, 6:00 p.m. ET (airs on Thursday, June 28)
Track Size: 1.990-mile Road Course
Race Length: 64 Laps, 127.4 miles
2017 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Fields Ford Fusion (Started sixth, 23 laps led).
Track Qualifying Record: Hershel McGriff (103.639 mph – 1984).
Storylines Heading into the Carneros 200:
There are several storylines going into this weekend’s race to watch for:
- Jim Inglebright will make his first start of the K&N Pro Series West season since last June at Sonoma, where he started 12th and finished 30th. He’ll pilot the No. 1 Oh Shirt Yeah Chevrolet.
- After forgoing Colorado to compete in the ARCA Racing Series at Michigan Speedway, last year’s pole sitter and race runner-up Will Rodgers will run for Jeff Jefferson’s No. 7 Kelly & Association Insurance Group Ford for the second time this season.
- Making only his sixth start since his last full-season in 2015, David Mayhew will pilot the No. 17 MMI Services/Madoram Chevrolet for car owner Steve McGowan.
- Daniel Suarez will run the No. 54 Arris Toyota for David Gilliland Racing. Last year, he finished 11th for Matthew Miller.
- Erik Jones will also run for Gilliland’s team, carrying his DeWalt sponorship in the No. 20 Toyota.
- Bill McAnally will field five cars, including Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman (No. 24 Axalta/Nationwide) and William Byron (No. 27 Liberty University), who will run Chevrolet instead of Toyota’s.
- NASCAR NEXT’s Hailie Deegan will make her road course debut at Sonoma. After five races, she currently sits seventh in points with two top-5s and five top-10s.
- Missing last year’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 due to injuries from a crash at Kansas Speedway, Aric Almirola will have more seating time at Sonoma, driving the No. 41 DenBeste Water Solutions Ford.
- Jesse Iwuji will make his third K&N Pro Series West start at Sonoma, looking to improve his best finish of 15th set in 2016. He’ll run the No. 40 Perfect Hydration Chevrolet for Jan Levin.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, June 22
- KNPSW Practice (4:05 p.m. – 5:25 p.m.)
Saturday, June 23
- KNPSW Qualifying (1:15 p.m.)
- KNPSW Carneros 200 (4:30 p.m. – 64 laps, 127.4 miles – airing on NBCSN on Thursday, June 28 6:30 p.m.)