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June 8, 2024

What to Watch: Oceanic invasion heads to Sonoma with Will Brown, Cam Waters

Toyota/Save Mart 350

(⏰ Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET | FOX | PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Weekend schedule | TV schedule | Weather tracker | NASCAR 101

Location: Sonoma, California
Track length: 1.99 miles
Race purse: $8,426,274
Race distance: 110 laps | 218.9 miles
Stages: 25 | 55 | 110

Starting lineup: Joey Logano will lead the field to green flag
Pit stall assignments:
See where drivers will pit
Defending winner:
Martin Truex Jr., June 2023

Key things to watch

Saturday sessions

Joey Logano capitalized on Team Penske’s recent momentum, storming to the Busch Light Pole Award at 97.771 mph, beating 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick for the top spot in qualifying by just 0.083 seconds. Logano’s teammate Ryan Blaney will start third ahead of the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and William Byron. Daniel Suárez, the 2022 Sonoma winner, will start seventh, while Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain and Ty Gibbs complete the top 10 on the grid. | Qualifying recap

The Cup Series also had a full 50-minute practice session on Friday afternoon as teams tackled the new pavement. Ryan Blaney was fastest on single-lap speed at 97.866 mph over Ty Gibbs, Supercars points leader Will Brown and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott. | Practice recap

Big story line

Will Brown, Cam Waters latest Supercars stars to test talents in NASCAR

Nearly a year removed from New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen’s upset win in his Cup debut on the streets of Chicago, two of his former counterparts from the Australian Repco Supercars Championship series are joining the NASCAR Cup Series fray this weekend at Sonoma.

Will Brown, a native of Toowoomba, Australia, is making his debut in the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing this weekend, while Mildura native Cam Waters makes his in the No. 60 RFK Racing Ford in a Stage 60 entry.

Brown is the current Supercars points leader Down Under, with Waters fourth in the championship standings. But stateside, the duo are simply rookies looking to see if their skills can transfer to NASCAR’s Next Gen car the way SVG’s did a season ago.

“Watching what SVG did last year, a lot of Aussies have paid a lot of attention to NASCAR now, and I’m pretty excited to come over and have a go,” Brown said Friday at Sonoma. “I was lucky enough to put a deal together with Richard (Childress). We were able to have him out to Australia at the end of last year, and yeah, made that connection. So, for myself, it was cool to put a deal together last minute, and hopefully, we’ll have a good weekend.”

Waters, a two-time Supercars title runner-up and three-time Bathurst 1000 podium finisher, has gotten his feet wet in the stock-car universe already, making two oval starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season at Martinsville Speedway and Kansas Speedway. His Cup experience got off to a rocky start in Friday’s 50-minute practice session, however, with a wild spin into the Turn 1 grass, narrowly avoiding the surrounding concrete and tire barriers.

WATCH: Waters spins during Friday practice

Brown, on the other hand, had quite an impressive outing in the No. 33 Chevrolet, posting the third-fastest single lap behind only Ryan Blaney and Ty Gibbs. Before practice, he acknowledged the hours of simulation time he was able to utilize at General Motors’ Charlotte Technical Center to prepare. That effort showed on the speed chart.

Oh, and there’s another secret weapon in his back pocket — err, ear: SVG will be spotting for Brown.

“The simulators worked great for me at the GM Tech Center,” Brown told FOX Sports post-practice. “But the guys back home in Australia race hard, and it’s fairly similar cars, so felt pretty good coming into the weekend. I’ve watched a lot of what SVG’s doing, but I’ve worked with him a lot. So it’s great to have him as a spotter to be working with him, but there’s a long way to go yet. It was a good start. I’ve still got a lot of learning to do in the car and how to race it, but we’ll see where we end up (Sunday).”

TICKETS: Don’t miss the July 7 Chicago Street Race

History tells us…

Martin Truex Jr. will be the driver to beat Sunday. Truex has won three of the last five races at Sonoma and had a fourth back in 2013 when he was racing with Michael Waltrip Racing.

The New Jersey native has made himself at home in wine country and enters as the defending winner of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. The pavement may be new, but the layout is still the same. And no one has managed it better lately than the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

He may not be the betting favorite to win, but watch out for…

Kyle Busch. It’s now been over a year since Busch’s last trip to Victory Lane, but don’t rule out the No. 8 Chevrolet this weekend. Entering at 28-1 odds on Draft Kings, Busch has finished seventh or better in seven of the last eight races at Sonoma with six straight top 10s in that span. And oh, by the way, the two-time Napa Valley winner was a runner-up in this event one year ago. | Sonoma odds

Speed reads

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

– Kyle Larson granted waiver to compete in playoffs: 2021 Cup champion eligible despite missing Charlotte | Read article
– Behind the waiver decision:
NASCAR official explains why waiver was granted | Read article
– Turn 11 has new look this weekend:
Inside barrier creates ‘pretty significant shift to the race track’ | Read article
– Turning Point:
Hill to climb for winless Cup drivers on playoff bubble | Read article
– Cindric reflects after Gateway win: Third-year Team Penske driver: “It’s a pretty big moment for us” | Read article
– Todd Gilliland signs multiyear deal with FRM: Front Row makes first signing of its 2025 lineup | Read article
– Racing Insights: Elliott projected to reclaim road-course crown at Sonoma; see full field projections | Read article
– NASCAR Classics: Vintage Sonoma races to relive before Sunday’s edition | Read article
– Field of 16:
How the projected playoff picture was shaken before Sonoma | Read article
– 36 for 36: Check this week’s survivor pool picks | Read article
– Fantasy Fastlane:
Why the road-course ringers should be in your race day lineup | Photo gallery
– Fantasy Update:
Blistering speeds lead to lineup overhaul at Sonoma | Read article
– Paint Scheme Preview: Colors set to dazzle in Napa Valley | Pick your favorite

Fast facts

Race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

– The last five Sonoma winners started inside the top eight.
– The final lead change came with 14 or more laps to go in the last seven Sonoma races.
– The Sonoma race has only gone into overtime once in the last 10 years. There have been four overtime finishes in track history.