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Today’s Cup race at Sonoma: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in Northern California for the first race of the season on a road course. There have been eight different winners in the past eight years at Sonoma: Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart. Will there be a ninth different winner today?

Here are the particulars for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Cristela Alonzo, voice of Cruz Ramirez in Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3, and Renee Doss, Toyota Master Diagnostic Technician, will give the command for drivers to start engines at 3:08 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 3:20 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 110 laps (218.9 miles) around the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 25. Stage 2 ends on Lap 50.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 10 a.m. The drivers meeting is at 1 p.m. Driver introductions are at 2:20 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Natalie Gallo, Transcendence Theatre Company’s Broadway Under the Stars, will perform the Anthem at 3:01 p.m.

TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the race at 3 p.m. Its coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at goprn.com. PRN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 73 degrees at race time with a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Tony Stewart won this race a year ago after a last-lap duel with Denny Hamlin, who finished second. Joey Logano was third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for today’s starting lineup

Carl Edwards surfaces, doesn’t miss racing: ‘I’m enjoying life and it’s good’

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Cancel the APB, take his face off the milk cartons.

Carl Edwards has been found. The former NASCAR Cup star surfaced Saturday at Sonoma Raceway – representing a former sponsor at an event that had been previously scheduled.

Edwards is happy, hale and hearty.

Yet if you think that returning to a racetrack means Edwards will be getting behind the wheel of a race car once again, forget about it.

But he hasn’t lost his wicked sense of humor, either.

“I’ve been talking to a bunch of people and weighing my options — no, just kidding,” he said with a laugh, according to JeffGluck.com.

Then Edwards got serious.

“I haven’t talked to anyone and I haven’t even considered coming back,” Edwards said. “Not right now.

“I think it’s pretty clear if I really want to do something, then I would do it. But like I said in January, I would talk to Coach (Joe Gibbs) first — and I haven’t had any conversations about that.”

Gluck noted that Edwards did write a thank-you note to Gibbs recently that reiterated the opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing and that the organization supported him when he decided to leave racing after last season.

Given that racing has been part of his life for more than half his life, it was interesting to hear Edwards, who turns 38 in August, say he hasn’t kept up much with NASCAR nor watched many races since he walked away from the sport.

But he is doing some good. He’s continuing to fly medical patients to treatment in his private plane.

Saturday was the first time Edwards has been at a racetrack since Atlanta Motor Speedway in early March.

He then added, per ESPN.com, “I’m probably happier and more content [than in March],” Edwards said. “You know how change is. You make a change, and there always is good and bad and there’s uneasiness. But, man, I’m enjoying life and it’s good.”

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NASCAR America: Which NASCAR driver is ready for zombie apocalypse?

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Now there’s something you don’t hear NASCAR drivers talk about every day: how to prepare — and potentially survive — a zombie apocalypse.

Our intrepid reporter, Rutledge Wood, threw a number of NASCAR drivers for a loop when he asked them that very question.

The reactions range from incredulousness to seriousness.  Among those Rut talked with included Martin Truex Jr., Elliott Sadler, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones and Kyle Larson.

And here’s a few surprises:

  • Brad Keselowski wants to buy a tank for the apocalypse, and supposedly Dale Earnhardt Jr. is waiting to take delivery on his own tank — both to kill zombies, of course!
  • Several drivers also talked about one of their former own who reportedly has already made big plans to take on any zombies that come across his path. As Wood said, that former driver’s name rhymes with Schmarl Schmedwards.

Check out the hysterical video — trust us, it WILL make you laugh — if for nothing else the outlandish responses from some of the drivers.

But it also makes one wonder: what if a zombie is among us and he’s disguised as a zombie? What then — and who might it be?

Joe Gibbs Racing announces new role for former crew chief Dave Rogers

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Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday that former Cup crew chief Dave Rogers will be the technical director for its NASCAR Xfinity Series program.

Rogers had been a Cup crew chief from 2010 to early this season, working with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez. Rogers won 18 Cup races.

Rogers took a personal leave from the team in March after serving as crew chief for Suarez in the season’s first five races. Scott Graves assumed Rogers’ role with the team.

In his new role, Rogers will work closely with Steve deSouza, JGR’s executive vice president, in all aspects of competition across the organization’s Xfinity program.

“I really appreciate the support I’ve received over the past couple of months allowing me to take care of what I needed to in my personal life,” said Rogers in a statement from the team. “This position really excites me and I’m looking forward to working closely with Steve (deSouza), our crew chiefs and everyone in our XFINITY Series shop on all aspects of competition.”

 

Toyota executive: Low downforce, not new car bodies, root of early season problems

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A Toyota Racing Development executive says the manufacturer “not sweating the numbers in terms of wins” after 11 races in the NASCAR Cup season.

David Wilson, president of TRD, also said NASCAR’s new low downforce package is more to blame for the lack of wins than Toyota’s new Camry bodies, which debuted a new nose design this season.

“Overall, we’re pleased with its performance,” Wilson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Tradin’ Paint. “I know when we came out of the gate a little slower than normal, human nature is you point to what’s different. ‘Well, they’ve got that new Camry.’ Honestly guys, that’s really not been the biggest contributor. I think adjusting to the lower downforce stuff; our aero program the past couple of years has been so strong and the amount of work we put into more downforce, more downforce, more downforce.”

Through 11 races, Toyota has two Cup wins, both coming with Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and last Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Toyota’s flagship team, Joe Gibbs Racing, hasn’t visited victory lane since last fall’s race at Texas Motor Speedway with Carl Edwards.

While Truex leads the series in stage wins with five, Joe Gibbs Racing only has four combined stage wins among its four drivers.

Also, all four drivers — Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez — have combined for just seven top fives.

Wilson’s observation of the impact of the lower downforce package goes back to last season when the series tested a variation of this years’ lower downforce package in both Michigan races and at Kentucky Speedway.

In those races, JGR only recorded one top five (Carl Edwards, Kentucky) and four top 10s. Truex added a fifth for Furniture Row Racing. The Gibbs’ teams earned 46 top fives in all of 2016.

“When NASCAR cuts a thousand pounds or so off (the car), it kinds of eats into our competitive margin we spent so much time and energy building up,” Wilson said. “We’re working on a number of things. Mechanical grip, we need our cars to turn through the center of the corners a little bit better and just aero, not just downforce.”

Hamlin said two weeks ago at Richmond International Raceway that it would take more than a month for Joe Gibbs Racing’s problems to fixed.

“Some things are going to take a long time for us to get better at, but I’m very confident that when push comes to shove, we’re in September starting the (playoffs), we should be hopefully back where we were, if not better,” Hamlin said.

With the next points race a week away, there are only two Toyota teams in the top 10 in points. Truex is second, 44 points behind Kyle Larson. Busch is seventh, 150 points back. Denny Hamlin the next highest Toyota driver in 12th.

“We tend to get a little frustrated because we set the bar so high,” Wilson said. “Coming off the past two seasons, we have good cause to set that bar pretty high as we ran pretty darn well.

“What we have to keep in perspective, we’re leading a lot of laps. It’s one thing if we’re not bringing the wins home at the end of the day when we’re not leading laps. It’s another when we’re leading a lot of laps, we’e just not closing. We fall victim to whether it’s a pit miscue or just bad luck. We’re not sweating the numbers in terms of wins. We’ve won as many stages as any manufacturer. Just not enough of the third stage.”

The top Toyota teams of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing – which are part of a technical alliance – have led 1, 367 laps. Truex (536) and Busch (521) lead the series.

“On the whole, we feel pretty good about where we are,” said of the Toyota program at the All-Star break. “This next stretch, we said to ourselves before Kansas, this is a very important part of the season because we’re going to hit these tracks where we’re going to come back during the playoffs.

“So Kansas, Charlotte, Dover and that’s going to be obviously important that we do well and are able to keep our performance high, because those are going to be somewhat predictive of our playoff performance.”

The Charlotte and Dover races have swapped spots on the schedule. Last year, Truex dominated and won the Coke 600 and Kenseth then won at Dover. Toyota didn’t visit victory lane again until New Hampshire with Kenseth, six races after Charlotte.

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