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June 9, 2024

Racing Insights: Chase Elliott to reclaim road-course crown at Sonoma


This Sunday the Cup Series is back out West for its second road-course race of the season in the Toyota/Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN Radio, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).

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This week, the advance metrics predict Chase Elliott to step back into the winner’s circle for the second time this year and earn his first career victory at Sonoma.

It wasn’t long ago that Elliott was considered the clear best road-course driver among active participants, compiling seven career wins on such tracks. Since Elliott’s last road-course win in 2021 at Road America, the gap between him and the rest of the Cup field when it comes to turning left and right has closed.

But there’s good reason to think the 2020 champ returns to vintage form at Sonoma. He’s finished top 20 in every ’24 race and his 9.87 average finish — a career-best through 15 races — remains the best in the Cup field.

Elliott’s recent numbers at Sonoma also indicate he’s due to break through soon. He’s one of four drivers to finish in the top 10 in both Sonoma races in the Next Gen era. His 97 laps run in the top five rank fourth over that same span. And with how strong the No. 9 team has looked all season in terms of pace and on pit road, there’s good reason to favor the team this Sunday.

Behind Elliott in the projections are 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell. Ty Gibbs, Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger complete the projected top 10.

OTHER DRIVERS TO WATCH

WILLIAM BYRON: Byron has won two of the last three road-course races (Watkins Glen, Circuit of The Americas), finishing second in the other (Charlotte Motor Speedway road course). He is also the only driver to claim four poles on four different road courses.

TY GIBBS: It’s only a matter of time until Gibbs steps into Victory Lane. He’s remained consistent all year, and what better way to earn career win No. 1 and provisionally lock into the playoffs than winning at a road course in the Wild West and then having a celebratory glass of wine?

MICHAEL MCDOWELL: McDowell has won three poles this year, proving there’s speed in the No. 34 Ford. Look for that trend to continue for McDowell at Sonoma. He finished in the top 10 in both Next Gen races at the circuit and won at the Indy Road Course last year.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Allmendinger will be back in the No. 16 Chevrolet this weekend, and as a proven road-course ringer, it’s hard to count him out. He upset the playoff field at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course with a win in the Round of 12 last year. Allmendinger also finished sixth at COTA earlier this season.

CAM WATERS & WILL BROWN: Two Australian Supercars regulars will be making Cup debuts this weekend. Similar to Shane van Gisbergen, it’s a long shot for either of them to win over a field of regulars — especially at a track the Cup Series regularly visits — but not out of the realm of possibilities. Plus, it will be interesting to see how they fare in a car that comparably handles to Supercars on a tough circuit.

RACING INSIGHTS’ PROJECTIONS FOR TOYOTA/SAVE-MART 350

Racing Insights’ advanced statistical formula includes current track, current track type, recent performance, team data and pit-crew data to arrive at a projected winner and full race results.

FinishCar NumberDriver
19Chase Elliott
245Tyler Reddick
35Kyle Larson
424William Byron
520Christopher Bell
654Ty Gibbs
719Martin Truex Jr.
834Michael McDowell
917Chris Buescher
1016AJ Allmendinger
111Ross Chastain
1248Alex Bowman
1311Denny Hamlin
148Kyle Busch
1522Joey Logano
1699Daniel Suárez
1712Ryan Blaney
182Austin Cindric
196Brad Keselowski
2014Chase Briscoe
2123Bubba Wallace
223Austin Dillon
2341Ryan Preece
2438Todd Gilliland
2577Carson Hocevar
2651Justin Haley
277Corey LaJoie
2847Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2943Erik Jones
3010Noah Gragson
3142John Hunter Nemechek
3271Zane Smith
3321Harrison Burton
344Josh Berry
3531Daniel Hemric
3615Kaz Grala
3733Will Brown
3860Cam Waters

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