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5 Best Races at Sonoma Raceway

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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The race track has been known by many names, Sears Point, Infineon, and now, Sonoma. In 30+ years of Cup Series racing in "Wine Country", there have been some incredible moments. Here are the top five races in the history of Sonoma Raceway.

The race track has been known by many names: Sears Point, Infineon, and now, Sonoma. In 30+ years of Cup Series racing in “Wine Country,” there have been some incredible moments. Here are the top five races in the history of Sonoma Raceway.

5. 2010 Toyota/Save Mart 350 (Marcos Ambrose Stalls, Jimmie Johnson Wins)

The 2010 race at Sonoma was primarily a two horse race between polesitter Jimmie Johnson and the “Tazmanian Devil” Marcos Ambrose. While Johnson led 48 of the first 57 laps, it was Ambrose who dominated the second half of the race leading 35 of the next 46 laps. A late caution came out with seven laps to go, seemingly setting up a dash to the finish between Johnson and Ambrose, or so we thought.

Ambrose shut off his engine to save fuel under the caution, except he inexplicably did it while going uphill, stalling in turn two. He lost six positions in the exchange and Jimmie Johnson took the lead. Johnson ran away uncontested to his first and only road course win, while Ambrose was relegated to a sixth place finish.

4. 1992 Save Mart Supermarkets 300k (Ernie Irvan Comeback Win)

Ernie Irvan got off to a rough start at Sonoma in 1992 despite starting on the front row. Irvan received a black flag after beating pole sitter Ricky Rudd to the line on the initial start. Irvan fell all the way back to 42nd place, but began to work his way forward.

Quietly, Irvan inched his way towards the front until there were eight laps to go. Irvan would pass Terry Labonte for the lead, and that was all. Irvan completed the comeback for his third career win, and his second road course win.

3. 1995 Save Mart Supermarkets 300 (Dale Earnhardt gets his Road Course Win)

Dale Earnhardt was never a spectacular road course racer. In fairness, he did not really need to be as, during his time in the sport, NASCAR routinely only had two road course races per season. That does not mean he did not figure it out eventually.

Coincidentally, Mark Martin was one of the best road course racers of the 1990s, and led 66 of the first 72 laps of this race. Earnhardt would have something to say on the outcome, however, as he would work his was under Martin through the carousel. Earnhardt would hang on to win by 0.32 seconds for his only career win on a road course.

2. 1991 Banquet Frozen Foods 300 (Ricky Rudd Gets Black Flagged)

Ricky Rudd started from the pole in 1991 at Sonoma, but, in the late stages he was sitting in fourth place behind Davey Allison in third, Mark Martin in second, and road course ace Tommy Kendall (substituting for Kyle Petty) in the lead. With four laps to go, Kendall spun out Mark Martin out while fighting for the lead, and damage slowed Kendall’s car down.

It came down to Allison and Rudd in the final three laps, and, heading into turn 11 with two laps to go, Rudd accidentally spun out Allison. Over the course of the final lap, Rudd cruised around the track anticipating 11th career win, until he crossed the line and saw a black flag instead of the checkered flag. Allison was shown the checkered flag, giving him the win.

Waddell Wilson, Rudd’s crew chief, was irate, calling the call “rotten” after the race. Rudd was unable to appeal the call after the race, but the funny thing was Rudd was not relegated to the last car on the lead lap like normal. Rudd finished second.

1. 2016 Toyota Save/Mart 350 (Tony Stewart’s Last Win)

2016 was Tony Stewart’s last Cup Series season, and he had not won in over three years. At Sonoma, Stewart looked like the “Smoke” of old around one of his best tracks. With 22 laps to go, a good pit stop gave Stewart the lead as the dominant car of the day Denny Hamlin worked his way back towards the front.

On the last lap, Hamlin bumped Stewart out of the way in turn seven, but Stewart managed to stay close through the esses. Heading into turn 11, Hamlin overdrove the corner giving Stewart the bottom of the track. Stewart would shove Hamlin out of the way off of the final corner, giving Stewart his 49th and final career win.

Sonoma has been home to some tremendous races through the years. Could we see another great sonoma moment this weekend?

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts