Jun 15, 2014; Brooklyn, MI, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer prior to the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Ice Picks - Sonoma Raceway

Either you love it or hate it; the first of two road races are upon us in the Napa Valley of Northern California.

The left turners have been racing here since 1989 in the wine country, and by the time the winner starts drinking from the goblet, most drivers have completed 1100 turns.

Those who unloaded fast after the first practice are as follows:

#41-Busch 95.470
#15-Bowyer 95.421
#55-Vickers 95.080
#78-Truex Jr. 94.978
#42-Larson 94.825

When the dust settled at Sonoma, it was Clint Bowyer who was the happiest leading the pack with the best track times. Here’s the top five after final practice:

#15-Bowyer 95.988
#27-Menard 95.544
#99-Edwards 95.465
#88-Earnhardt Jr. 95.463
#1-McMurray 95.463

Clint Bowyer is a must have for Sunday with a solid record the past 10 years with one win, five top 5s and six top 10s. His average finish is 9.1, but what is more impressive is he led 71 laps with an average finish of 2.5 the past two races at Sonoma with one win. Clint needs to win on Sunday to get in the Chase. By the way this year has been going for Clint,  this might be his best chance to win this season with his performance being sub-par turning left. With a fairly low fantasy price tag, there should be incentive to punch his ticket.

Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers the past 10 years with an average finish of 8.2, including four wins, the last one when he had flames on the hood in 2006. He’s been runner-up four times during his career.

Five out of 20 races have been won from the pole, and the last driver to do so was Gordon in 2004.

Marcos Ambrose should be on your ballot, and even though he has never won this race, he came close to winning a few years back until he killed the engine trying to save gas. This might be Marcos’ shot at making the Chase with a lifetime average finish at Sonoma of 4.5.

Toyota and Michael Waltrup Racing have won the last two Sonoma races with Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., who won this race last year. Truex should be a bargain buy and seems to be taking well to Sonoma with the fourth-fastest practice time during “Happy Hour”.

Hendricks Motorsports leads all active teams in wins with five – Jeff with four and Jimmie won in 2010.

Goodyear has a new tire compound for Sonoma; its suppose to give you more grip. All four tires will have the same tire code. The drivers who tested at Sonoma on March 25-26 were #9-Marcos Ambrose, #14-Tony Stewart, #18-Kyle Busch, #24-Jeff Gordon and #55-Brian Vickers.

Here are the top three driver ratings for Sonoma:

Marcos Ambrose – 108.0

Kurt Busch – 107.8

Tony Stewart – 102.4

Track position is everything at Sonoma to stay out of trouble. The road races are becoming the new Bristol, as pay-backs are becoming a norm in road racing. Drivers seldom come from deep in the field to win for the simple reason they use up their brakes.

Another of my past observations on Sonoma is this could turn into a fuel mileage race, unless drivers start playing bumper cars, and that can lead to a yellow flag epidemic and all bets are off.

Here are my Ice Picks for Sonoma.

 

A List

 

Kurt Busch- has one win with 3 top 5s is good for me.

Jeff Gordon- is a stud at Sonoma with a 3.8 avg finish the past five years.

Clint Bowyer- has taken  from the goblet before and looks darn good during happy hour.

 

B List

 

Marcos Ambrose-  might not win but will give you good points.

Brian Vickers- has done some right turning the past two years.

Martin Truex Jr- won this race last year and has a top ten best in happy hour.

Tony Stewart- was fast when he tire tested and knows how to throw the race car into the turns.

 

C List

 

Boris Said- should give you a top 20 and he has his “Said Heads” with him.

 

 

I haven’t been doing too good lately(health) so I didn’t post last week. If you need anymore Sonoma info, refer to my Power Rankings Sonoma post on Fantasy Insider. If you’re new to my Ice Picks, groupings are based on last year’s final points positions, A (1-10), B (11- 25) and C (25 on back, including rookies and drivers who fill-in. Comments are always welcome. You can like Stock Car Spin on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Thanks for stopping in, Good Luck!

@JoeIcemanNieves

Tags: Goodyear Tires NASCAR Sonoma Raceway

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