Statistically speaking: a look at Sonoma Raceway

toyota_savemart350_13This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series go road course racing for the first of two times this season in Sunday’s Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. Unlike in years past, road course specialists, or “ringers,” haven’t been called on in such high numbers. But, despite only running two road course races per season, Sprint Cup regulars bettered the “ringers,” for the most part, anyway. Maybe that has something to do with being more used to the racing machines.

California native Jeff Gordon leads the way at Sonoma with five trips to victory lane, while fellow Sprint Cup regular Tony Stewart has two wins at the track. While Marcos Ambrose has yet to win at Sonoma, he may still be considered a favorite. He came close to winning there not so long ago when he made the mistake of shutting his engine off to conserve fuel while heading up hill late in the race. Before he had difficulty getting his car refired, Ambrose looked to be on his way to victory lane. Ambrose has two career wins at the Sprint Cup level, both coming at the series’ other road course stop at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. And more often than not, Ambrose is in the late-race mix for the win anytime the Sprint Cup Series heads to a road course.

Clint Bowyer was the surprise winner a year ago.

Here’s a statistical look at how some of the series’ top drivers have fared turning left and right at Sonoma:

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford)

· Two top fives, five top 10s; one pole

· Average finish of 11.8

· Average Running Position of 10.5, second-best

· Series-best Driver Rating of 108.0

· 58 Fastest Laps Run, third-most

· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 89.904 mph

· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (81.6%), ninth-most

· 207 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota)

· One win, five top fives, six top 10s

· Average finish of 9.1

· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best

· Driver Rating of 95.2, seventh-best

· 35 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most

· 530 Green Flag Passes, second-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.543 mph, sixth-fastest

· 216 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet)

· One win, six top fives, six top 10s; one pole

· Average finish of 16.0

· Series-best Average Running Position of 10.0

· Driver Rating of 107.8, second-best

· 56 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.869 mph, third-fastest

· Series-high 761 Laps in the Top 15 (76.3%)

· 201 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)

· One win, one top five, two top 10s

· Average finish of 20.4

· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best

· 50 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.529 mph, seventh-fastest

· 518 Laps in the Top 15 (52.0%), 11th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford)

· Two top fives, four top 10s

· Average finish of 15.6

· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best

· Driver Rating of 86.8, 10th-best

· 27 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most

· Series-high 548 Green Flag Passes

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.482 mph, eighth-fastest

· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (54.6%), ninth-most

· 196 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

· Five wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles

· Average finish of 8.2

· Average Running Position of 12.6, sixth-best

· Driver Rating of 101.6, fourth-best

· 64 Fastest Laps Run, second-most

· 493 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.707 mph, fourth-fastest

· 666 Laps in the Top 15 (66.8%), fourth-most

· 230 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s

· Average finish of 13.4

· Average Running Position of 12.5, fifth-best

· Driver Rating of 97.3, fifth-best

· 52 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.470 mph, 10th-fastest

· 717 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), third-most

· 240 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)

· One win, two top fives, three top 10s; two poles

· Average finish of 20.4

· Average Running Position of 16.1, 11th-best

· Driver Rating of 84.3, 12th-best

· 32 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most

· 552 Laps in the Top 15 (55.4%), eighth-most

· 210 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet)

· Two top fives, five top 10s

· Average finish of 13.1

· Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best

· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best

· 507 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.464 mph, 11th-fastest

· 572 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), sixth-most

· 185 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet)

· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole

· Average finish of 12.0

· Average Running Position of 11.0, third-best

· Driver Rating of 102.4, third-best

· Series-high 79 Fastest Laps Run

· 475 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.881 mph, second-fastest

· 740 Laps in the Top 15 (74.2%), second-most

· Series-high 261 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet)

· One win, one top five, two top 10s

· Average finish of 19.1

· Driver Rating of 86.5, 11th-best

· 42 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most

· 487 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most

· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.559 mph, fifth-fastest

Sonoma Raceway Data

Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-12-14)

Track Size: 1.99-miles

Number of Turns: 12

Race Length: 110 laps / 219 miles / 350 Kilometers

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Sonoma

Marcos Ambrose………………….. 108.0

Kurt Busch………………………….. 107.8

Tony Stewart……………………….. 102.4

Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.6

Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 97.3

Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 95.5

Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.2

Kyle Busch…………………………… 88.0

Ryan Newman……………………….. 88.0

Carl Edwards………………………… 86.8

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data

2013 Coors Light Pole winner:

Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet

94.986 mph, 75.422 secs. 06-21-13

2013 race winner:

Clint Bowyer, Toyota

76.658 mph, (02:51:20), 06-23-13

Track qualifying record:

Marcos Ambrose, Ford

95.262 mph, 75.203 secs. 06-22-12

Track race record:

Clint Bowyer, Toyota

83.624 mph, (02:39:55), 06-24-12

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Tags: NASCAR Sonoma Raceway

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