There have been 10 different winners in the last 11 Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup races at Sonoma Raceway.
That’s not been by design. Rather, it’s the byproduct of how tough the 1.990-mile road course is.
The only repeat winner in that 11-race stretch has been Kyle Busch, the defending winner of last year’s race. It was that victory that arguably sent Busch onward towards eventually capturing his first Sprint Cup championship five months later.
Jimmie Johnson can relate to that. He won at Sonoma in 2010 and went on to win the last of five consecutive championships that same season.
“Way too long ago, I know that much,” Johnson said in Friday’s media availability at Sonoma Raceway.
That there have been so many different winners is not a total surprise to Johnson.
“It is a wildcard race, but I feel like, quickly going through my memory, whichever driver has won has had a dominating day and a strong performance throughout the day,” said Johnson, who has four top-fives and nine top-10s, in addition to his lone win, in 14 starts at Sonoma. “It’s hard to repeat that; for whatever reason, I don’t exactly know.
“But, I think we’ve seen a real interesting shift in the last 10 years where the road course ringers have come in and they aren’t taking the trophies home; it’s really the NASCAR regulars. I think it shows the versatility we have as drivers and the teams as well, that set-up the car and make the car get around here.
“But, its fun racing, I really enjoy it. I wish we did more. To have two road course races a year, you just kind of get into the swing of things and we leave the Glen and you put it on the shelf and wait eight months or something and then do it again.”
Johnson’s point about road course ringers is astute. Rather than bring in a road course specialist, teams have come to rely upon their regular drivers as their respective skills have significantly improved over the last decade or so.
“I think the team owners feel confident in their regular drivers,” Johnson said. “It’s obviously expensive for a team to put up a topnotch effort to bring one Boris (Said) or one of the ringers out here, Scott Pruett or something. … The regulars are doing such a good job they don’t have that need, I don’t think, as much as in the past.”