NASCAR viewer’s guide: Sonoma Raceway

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This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway in California for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, the second road course race of the season.

Sonoma will have a “full” race experience for the first time since 2019. Sonoma’s 2020 race was cancelled because of the pandemic, and last year’s race was run with limited attendance.

Sunday’s race will use the facility’s shorter 1.99-mile course that includes a chute between Turns 4 and 7. It will be the first time this version of the course has been used since 2018.

Chasing Chase

Virtually every road course race starts with Chase Elliott as a favorite. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has won seven of the past 15 road course events and was runner-up to teammate Kyle Larson at Sonoma last year. In the past 16 road course races, Elliott has finished the top 10 only three times.

In the road course win column among active drivers, Elliott is the runaway leader with seven. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have four each.

Oddly, however, Elliott has not won at Sonoma.

Still Looking For Victory Lane

As the season rolls on through the second half, more than a few key drivers remain in search of their first win and a virtual locked-up spot in the playoffs.

Of that group, Martin Truex Jr. seems the most likely to check off that win this week. He has won three times at Sonoma, including two of the past three races. It’s a complicated week for Truex as he is weighing whether to return next season with Joe Gibbs Racing or to retire.

Other top drivers still waiting for a first win this season are Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace.

Harvick’s case is particularly troublesome. Entering Sonoma, he is one spot below the playoff points cutoff. There have been 11 different winners this year, and, as of this weekend, five other drivers – Blaney, Truex, Bell, Aric Almirola and Reddick – would qualify for the playoffs through points.

Harvick is mired in a 58-race winless streak. Although he is known as “The Closer” for his ability to race well in the final stages of races, he has 34 top 10s without a win over that 58-race stretch. Nineteen different drivers have won races during Harvick’s drought.

Harvick, driving Fords, can’t be cheered by the Blue Oval’s recent road course record. Ford hasn’t visited victory lane in the past 13 road course races. Chevrolet has won 11 of those.

What’s Next For Chastain?

Sonoma will provide the first opportunity for drivers who might be upset at Ross Chastain to illustrate the degree of their anger, and a road course often is a good place for such activity.

Chastain ran into Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott last week at Gateway and admitted after the race that he “absolutely drove over my head today.” Hamlin and Elliott responded with moves of their own on track, but post-race commentary indicated that the “Chastain doesn’t play well with others” dynamic probably isn’t over.

NASCAR said it might discuss the Gateway incidents with the drivers this weekend.

Entry lists

Thirty-six drivers are on the Cup entry list for Sonoma.

Scott Heckert will make his fourth career start in the series. The Connecticut driver ran three road course events in 2021 with a top finish of 26th at Sonoma. Sports car veteran Joey Hand will make his third Cup start, driving a Ford for Rick Ware Racing. AJ Allmendinger will step up from the Xfinity Series to run a Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing.

Sonoma Cup entry list

Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race has 39 entries.

The field will include several Cup drivers. Kyle Busch will drive one of his team’s Toyotas. Ross Chastain will be in a Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, Austin Dillon in a Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet and Alex Bowman in a Spire Motorsports Chevrolet. Harrison Burton, who has had a rough season in Cup, will be in a Team DGR Ford in the Truck race.

Sonoma Truck entry list

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

 (All times Eastern)

 Friday, June 10

Forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 98 degrees, winds 10-20 mph

  • 6:05 – 6:55 p.m. – Truck practice (No TV)

Saturday, June 11

Forecast: Sunny, high of 91 degrees, winds 10-20 mph

  • 1 – 1:55 p.m. – Truck qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:35 – 5:25 p.m. – Cup practice (FS2)
  • 5:25 – 6:30 p.m. – Cup qualifying (FS2)
  • 7:30 p.m. – Truck race (75 laps, 149 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)

Sunday, June 12

Forecast: Sunny, high of 80 degrees, winds 10-20 mph

  • 4 p.m. – Cup race (110 laps, 218.9 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”