The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the Sonoma Valley for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, June 22-24. Below are points of interest leading in to race weekend:
· Jeff Gordon is the only driver to win five NASCAR races in Sonoma (1998 – 2000, ‘04, ‘06). There have been four two-time winners: Ernie Irvan, (‘92, ‘94), Ricky Rudd (‘89, ‘02), Tony Stewart (‘01, ‘05) and Rusty Wallace (‘90, ‘96).
· Fifteen different drivers have tasted victory in Sonoma: Ricky Rudd ('89, ‘02), Rusty Wallace (‘90, ‘96), Davey Allison (‘91), Ernie Irvan (‘92, ‘94), Geoffrey Bodine ('93), Dale Earnhardt ('95), Mark Martin (‘97), Jeff Gordon (‘98-‘00, ‘04, ‘06), Tony Stewart (‘01, ‘05), Robby Gordon (‘03), Juan Pablo Montoya (‘07), Kyle Busch (‘08), Kasey Kahne (‘09), Jimmie Johnson (‘10) and Kurt Busch (‘11).
· The age gap between the youngest and oldest drivers attempting to qualify for the Pick-n-Pull Racing to Stop Hunger 200 NASCAR Pro Series West race is 69 years. Hershel McGriff is 84 years old, while Cameron Hayley is just 15.
· The Toyota/Save Mart 350 has seen seven different winners over the past seven years, as well as five consecutive first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road-course winners.
· Dale Earnhardt won his only NASCAR road-course race in Sonoma in 1995.
· Juan Pablo Montoya holds the track record for the greatest winning improvement when he started 32nd and won in 2007. He was also the first rookie ever to win a NASCAR Cup event in Sonoma.
· The largest margin of victory belongs to Ernie Irvan (1994) by 9.56 seconds.
· The closest margin of victory occurred at the inaugural race in 1989 when Ricky Rudd held off Rusty Wallace by .05 seconds.
· Jeff Gordon holds the record for the most poles with five (‘98, ‘99, ‘01, ‘04, ‘05).
· Ernie Irvan (1994), Mark Martin (1997) and Jeff Gordon (1998, ‘99 and 2004) are the only drivers to win a race starting from the pole.
· Mark Martin holds the record for most laps completed in Sonoma, completing 1,975 of 2,219 laps.
· Kyle Busch’s 2008 victory marked Toyota’s first-ever win in Sonoma. Brian Vickers earned Toyota its first pole in Sonoma in 2009 (93.678 mph).
· Terry Labonte and Michael Waltrip share the track record for the biggest improvement from qualifying to finish at 36 positions. In 2002, Labonte started 39th and finished in 3rd place. Waltrip started 40th and finished 4th in 2004.
· Jeff Gordon is the top money winner with $2,678,011, competing in 19 of 23 NASCAR events in Sonoma. He leads second-place earner, Tony Stewart, by nearly $900,000.
· Jeff Gordon reset the record for most laps led by a race winner in 2004 when he led 92 laps.
· The track record for the most lead changes was reset in 2011, as nine drivers exchanged the lead 12 times.
· The road course features more than 160 feet of elevation change from its highest to lowest points. The highest point at Turn 3a reaches 174 feet, while the lowest point at Turn 10 is just 14 feet.
· The berms on the turns of the road course are painted blue and gold in honor of raceway President and General Manager Steve Page, who attended nearby University of California, Berkeley. The University of California Marching Band (CalBand) will perform the national anthem before this year’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.
· Drivers who complete the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup race will make 1,100 turns around the road course. The race spans 110 laps.
· Nearly 3,000 sheep call the raceway their home throughout the year. The sheep, provided by Rocky Mountain Wooly Weeders, provide natural land care, helping to maintain the facility’s grasses and fire lanes. The raceway also houses a 1,700-panel solar installation, which provides approximately 40% of the raceway’s power needs.
· Winners of most major events in Sonoma celebrate with a sip from the Champion’s Goblet in the Wine Country Winner’s Circle. The goblet was introduced in 2006, incorporating the raceway’s rich wine country heritage and allowing the winner to toast the fans. The goblets are specially created by a local glass blower from Sonoma.