Keep an eye on these drivers this weekend on the road course in Northern California.
After finishing second to little brother Kyle last year at Sonoma, a flip-flop of that result Sunday would not surprise. Since his win there in 2011 for Team Penske, Kurt Busch has been a consistent front-runner. In his last five Sonoma appearances, he’s picked up four top-5 finishes and an average finish of fourth.
The series’ most recent winner (Michigan) isn’t a slouch on the twisty tracks. Logano has posted an average finish of seventh over his last five road course races, which include a fifth at Sonoma and a win at Watkins Glen last year.
He has insisted that he doesn’t feel as much pressure to win at Sonoma this year, but this is still a big weekend for him and the No. 47 team. As fringe playoff contenders, their margin for error slimmed with a DNF at Michigan, which took them from four points behind 16th place on the Chase Grid to 27 back. A third consecutive Sonoma setback for Allmendinger, with a potential race-winning car, would hurt even more.
Bowyer has been a good bet at Sonoma, and don’t think he can’t get another good finish there with HScott Motorsports. The 2012 Sonoma winner is quietly doing what he set out to do – make HScott better in their brief time together. Through the first 15 races last year, Justin Allgaier had an average finish of 27th. Bowyer, Allgaier’s replacement, has an average finish of 23rd this year. For a team that’s struggled mightily, any progress is welcome.
Now at the top of the Chase bubble, Earnhardt finds himself with the unenviable task of stopping what’s been a tough stretch at arguably his least favorite track. Disaster in these next two “wild card races” could lead to an anxious summer, but he’s had decent runs in his last three Sonoma appearances (12th in 2013, third in 2014, seventh last year).