2022 NASCAR Preview: Week 16 – Sonoma

Up and down, left and right; yep, that’s Sonoma!

We’ve worked our way to our second road course race of the season, coming off the heels of a very eventful debut for the Cup Series at World Wide Technology Raceway / Gateway. Ross Chastain was “the hunted” after run-ins with both Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. Will his peace offering of a fresh watermelon absolve him of payback today? That remains to be seen…but we’ll find out soon enough!

Here’s what to look for:

Kyle Larson is on the Pole today. Last year, he won the Pole, too. And then the race. Seems like a direct line to “what do you think will happen today?” He said he could’ve gone even faster than he did on his hot lap, and if that is true, the entire field is in trouble. Kyle won three road course races last year, the first time he’d grabbed the checkers for any. Expect a lot of drivers watching his brake lights all_day_long.

Chase Elliott has the most road course Wins of active drivers (7), and will start 2nd today. I thought that these guys would probably finish 1-2, and I also thought that Mo Donegal and Nest would finish 1-2 yesterday. We know how that went. (Side bar: I’m very quickly becoming a horse maven! I nailed the Superfecta for the Preakness, and finished 1-2-4-5 on my Superfecta for Belmont yesterday. So close!) Oh, right, Chase Elliott. He’ll be there at the end, nose to tail with Larson, one way or another.

Martin Truex Jr. has three Wins here in the last eight races. He had 2018 and 2019 back-to-back and then COVID forced us to take a break, leaving the door open for Larson in 2021. Truex finished 3rd last year, which is admirable, of course, but he’s got a lot of work to do this time around if he wants to be anywhere near that. The #19 will roll off 28th.

Kurt Busch has more Top 10s in the last ten races than anyone else (8), and the two that he missed were 12th and 13th. Kurt hasn’t been ranked above his younger brother Kyle in too many categories in the last few years, but this is definitely one of them. Kurt will start 11th today — you guessed it — one spot better than Kyle. (Kurt is pictured above with the Bella Twins — today’s Grand Marshals!)

A.J. Allmendinger isn’t starting this one where he wants to (16th), but I got the impression that he simply thought he’d make up those positions on the track during the race. He took one attempt in Qualifying, didn’t defend his position, and that was that. He was initially in the Top 5, but ended up not advancing to the final round. In any event, he finds himself here in a car that we know he can win with, and he should’ve already bagged one at COTA earlier this year. Last year, he took the checkers on the Indy Road Course, and last week he collected a trophy at Portland in the Xfinity Series. He’s got the tools, he’s got the talent; Allmendinger could absolutely win this one today. (Also, the scoreboard is still “rockin’ the Biff 16 font,” yes! Greg Biffle drove that years ago with Roush, but was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame just a few days ago! David Gilliland [Todd’s father] and Brendan Gaughan were also inducted. Congratulations, guys!)

We’re back at Sonoma, and back to having some delicious food. I think we’re so happy to be back having a great meal that we totally forgot about last year…

Yeah, we’re having French Dip again! It has been in the crockpot all morning, and that awesome smell is dominating the kitchen. I’m in the family room right now typing next to a wet Great Pyrenees-New Foundland mix who was in desperate need of a bath; very much looking forward to getting back to that great smell in the other room. And as I’m typing this: BAM. Done! Another yummy rendition with this thing, front-to-back tasty! The bread and cheese were perfect, the meat was great, the au jus was succulent, and I use “was” — past tense — because that thing is already in my stomach. “Stop typing. Scarf down an awesome meal. Continue.” Great job, Leese!

Coverage of the race today starts on FS1 at 4:00pm, green flag scheduled for 4:14pm.

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