Cup drivers got their first laps on the Carousel on Friday at Sonoma Raceway, a half-mile addition that includes a sweeping left-hand turn and leads to a hairpin at Turn 7. The Carousel was last used in a Cup race in 1997.
Here’s what some drivers had to say about running the Carousel:
Joey Logano — “The thing that is still an unknown is how it races. We got behind some cars in traffic in practice to see what effect it has to your car and those little things. There are a lot of unknowns until we race in all honesty.”
Ryan Newman — “The Carousel just took a little bit of learning for me and figuring out braking points and what the car balance is going to be like as it went through the corners. Other than that, I guess maybe a little bit of catch-up for me because I came in with a mindset of 18 or 19 years of what I used to do and it isn’t that anymore.”
Kyle Larson — “I actually feel like it’s kind of an odd corner just because I feel like I have a lot of grip for the first two-thirds of the corner. And then, like as we get back on the drag strip, I lose all sorts of grip. So, that’s been tricky. It’s been a tricky corner. But, it is what it is. You can’t really pass there anyway.”
William Byron — “It’s so blind on entry, so it’s going to be hard to make much out of the entry. I’m sure there will be some passes there once we are all together and stuffed in there, but I don’t know. I think the biggest area to focus on will be exiting that Carousel and trying to get that good so you can launch to the next corner.”
Paul Menard — “It is a pretty tricky corner in Turn 6. The exit of it is off-camber wide and you get push. If you can hug it a little tighter and get a run off, you will be able to get inside of somebody for Turn 7. It is a good passing zone.”
Bubba Wallace — “In watching all the races, it’s cool to watch Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt go at it there. But, it’s different now. So, we’ll see. We’ll just have to mind our P’s and Q’s and be on our toes the entire time.”
AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.
Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.
He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.
Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.
Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.
Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).
Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.
Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.
Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.
Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.
Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).
Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.
Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.
Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.
Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.
Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.
Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.
Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.
Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas
(All times Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.
PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.
TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.
FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.
LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.