Commentary

Toyota/Save Mart 350 preview

Updated: June 18, 2008, 1:38 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Background

• This is the 16th race of 36 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.
• This is the first of two road course races this season.
• This is the 20th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has competed at Sonoma since 1989.
• Infineon Raceway is a 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course.
• 47 drivers are on the pre-entry list to compete for one of the 43 starting slots in Sunday's 110-lap, 218.9-mile race. Of those 47 entrants, 12 must get into Sunday's field based on qualifying times. They are: J.J. Yeley, Patrick Carpentier, Marcos Ambrose, Boris Said, Terry Labonte, Dario Franchitti, Brian Simo, Max Papis, Brandon Ash, Scott Riggs, A.J. Allmendinger and Joe Nemechek.
• Of the go-or-go-home drivers, Terry Labonte is eligible for a champions' provisional.
• If qualifying were canceled, Max Papis, Brandon Ash, Boris Said and Brian Simo would miss the show.
• The drivers who are on the bubble for the top 35 in owners' points are:

31. Robby Gordon/Gordon 1,184, +34
32. Reed Sorenson/Ganassi Racing 1,179, +29
33. Sam Hornish/Penske Racing 1,178, +28
34. Michael Waltrip/Waltrip Racing 1,163, +13
35. Michael McDowell/Waltrip Racing 1,157, 7 points ahead of 36th

These teams/drivers must qualify by speed:

36. Scott Riggs/Haas CNC Racing, 1,150, -7 points out of 35th
37. A.J. Allmendinger/Red Bull Racing, 1,047, -110
38. J.J. Yeley/Hall of Fame Racing, 941, -216
39. Dario Franchitti/Ganassi Racing 922, -235

• Scott Riggs is driving the No. 70 car this weekend and Max Papis is driving the No. 66. Marcos Ambrose replaces Bill Elliott in the No. 21 with Brian Simo driving the No. 34. Ron Fellows is replacing Regan Smith in the No. 01 car.
• Terry Labonte continues to fill in for Kyle Petty this weekend. Petty continues his stint as commentator for TNT.
• No road course "ringer" has ever won at either of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course events (here and Watkins Glen). Juan Pablo Montoya, the defending winner, would be the closest thing to a "ringer" given his experience in CART and F1.
Jeff Gordon has more wins here than anyone (five), including three in a row from 1998 to 2000. Gordon also has more top-5s (nine), poles (nine), has led more laps (437) and has the highest average finish (9.7) of any other driver with five or more starts.
Mark Martin will not run this race, rookie Aric Almirola will be behind the wheel of the U.S. Army Chevy.
• While he has no wins here and has led only 11 laps, Ryan Newman has had his share of success in wine country. In six starts, Newman has six lead-lap finishes with four top-10s, two top-5s and has an average finish of 9.8.
• Of the go-or-go-home drivers with five or more starts, Joe Nemechek has the worst average finish (26.9). The go-or-go-home driver with the best average finish is Boris Said with a 17.6. Of the drivers with five or more starts here guaranteed to make Sunday's race, Dave Blaney has the worst average finish with a 30.3.
• Chevrolet has won seven of the past 10 races here, including a stretch of four in a row from 2003 to '06.
• Boris Said has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma, but has won here in other series and won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race here in 1998.

Sonoma previous winners

• There are FOUR previous Sonoma winners entered this weekend with 10 victories among them:

Driver Sonoma wins
Jeff Gordon 5 - 1998-2000, 2004, 2006
Tony Stewart 2 - 2001, 2005
Robby Gordon 1 - 2003
Juan Pablo Montoya 1 - 2007

Past four races at Sonoma

POS 2007 2006 2005 2004
1 Juan Pablo Montoya Jeff Gordon Tony Stewart Jeff Gordon
2 Kevin Harvick Ryan Newman Ricky Rudd Jamie McMurray
3 Jeff Burton Terry Labonte Kurt Busch Scott Pruett
4 Clint Bowyer Greg Biffle Rusty Wallace Michael Waltrip
5 Greg Biffle Kurt Busch Dale Jarrett Jimmie Johnson
6 Tony Stewart Carl Edwards Elliott Sadler Boris Said
7 Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton Jeremy Mayfield Casey Mears
8 Kyle Busch Elliott Sadler Ron Fellows Mark Martin
9 Boris Said Boris Said Ryan Newman Jeff Burton
10 Denny Hamlin Jimmie Johnson Brian Simo Elliott Sadler
11 Ricky Rudd Kyle Busch Matt Kenseth Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12 P.J. Jones Denny Hamlin Terry Labonte Kevin Harvick
13 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Mark Martin Jamie McMurray Greg Biffle
14 Elliott Sadler Brian Vickers Greg Biffle Ryan Newman
15 Ron Fellows Martin Truex, Jr. Mark Martin Tony Stewart
16 Robby Gordon Clint Bowyer Robby Gordon Ricky Craven
17 Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth Boris Said Klaus Graf
18 Carl Edwards Jamie McMurray Bobby Labonte Dale Jarrett
19 Bill Elliott Jeff Green Dave Blaney Jim Inglebright
20 Ryan Newman Casey Mears Casey Mears Matt Kenseth
21 J.J. Yeley Kyle Petty Travis Kvapil Sterling Marlin
22 Kurt Busch Jeremy Mayfield Michael Waltrip Brian Vickers
23 Kasey Kahne Michael Waltrip Joe Nemechek Ken Schrader
24 Martin Truex Jr. Kevin Harvick Scott Riggs Ward Burton
25 David Gilliland Joe Nemechek Scott Wimmer Scott Wimmer

2008 Sprint Cup Series top-10 recap
  1. Kyle Busch (2,213) was the 13th-place finisher at Michigan and remains first in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings. Busch has three starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 19.7.
  2. Jeff Burton (-32) was the 15th-place finisher Sunday and continues to be second in the Cup Series standings. In 14 starts here, Burton has five top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 19.4.
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-84) won at Michigan and remains third in the Cup Series standings. Earnhardt has eight starts here with an average finish of 22.0.
  4. Carl Edwards (-206) was the seventh-place finisher Sunday at Michigan and maintains his fourth-place position in the Cup Series standings. Edwards has three starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 20.7.
  5. Jimmie Johnson (-254) finished sixth Sunday and moves up one place in the Cup Series standings to fifth. In six starts here, Johnson has two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 20.0.
  6. Denny Hamlin (-287) finished 14th at Michigan and loses one position in the Cup Series standings to sixth. Hamlin has two starts here with finishes of 12th and 10th, respectively.
  7. Kasey Kahne (-324) was the runner-up Sunday and moves up two places to seventh in the Cup Series standings. In four starts here, Kahne has an average finish of 31.5.
  8. Greg Biffle (-329) finished 20th Sunday at Michigan and falls one place to eighth in the Cup Series standings. Biffle has five starts here with two top-5s and an average finish of 14.6.
  9. Jeff Gordon (-337) was the 18th-place finisher at Michigan and falls one place to ninth in the Cup Series standings. In 15 starts here, Gordon has 11 top-10s, nine top-5s, five wins and an average finish of 9.7.
  10. Kevin Harvick (-396) finished 12th at Michigan and remains 10th in the Cup Series standings. Harvick has seven starts here with two top-5s and an average finish of 15.1.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.