Inaugural Xfinity Series race at Sonoma attracts double-duty drivers

AJ Allmendinger and Ty Gibbs have a conversation on pit road in 2022.
Mike Mulholland
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NASCAR Xfinity Series regulars will have their hands full in Saturday’s DoorDash 250 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The influx of seven full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers eager to gain seat time at the 1.99-mile road course has swollen the entry list for the first-ever Xfinity race at Sonoma to 41, with only 38 spots available on the starting grid.

Foremost among the interlopers are the last two Cup Series winners at the track-Daniel Suárez (2022) and Kyle Larson (2021). Other double-duty Cup regulars are Ross Chastain, Ty Gibbs, Ty Dillon, AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola.

ENTRY LIST: See full roster of drivers qualifying

Though Allmendinger claimed both of his Cup Series victories and 11 of his 16 Xfinity wins on road courses, his finishes at Sonoma haven’t matched his acknowledged talent on tracks with both right-and-left turns.

In 11 Cup starts at Sonoma, Allmendinger has just two top 10s and an average finish of 23.5, but the Los Gatos, California, driver hopes he can improve those numbers dramatically this weekend.

“Sonoma is always a special, important weekend for me,” Allmendinger said. “It’s near where I grew up, and I still get to see a lot of friends and family there. Quite honestly, it’s a race track that I don’t have a very good average finish. I’ve felt like I’ve always been fast there, but it hasn’t worked out.

“Being able to run both races, I’m really looking forward to it. Sonoma is a race track I’ve always wanted to win at, knowing it’s my home racetrack and I would be able to do that in front of a lot of friends and family. Hopefully, we can go back there and have some success to keep building on our program.”

Sonoma Raceway is one of eight road courses on the Xfinity Series schedule this year and the second straight. Cole Custer won last Saturday’s event at Portland International Raceway, outdueling Justin Allgaier in a close finish.

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For either Custer or Allgaier to win this Saturday, however, they’ll have to beat some of the best drivers in NASCAR’s top division.