From 1989 to 1997, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California used its full, 12-turn road course, which featured a sweeping sequence of turns called “The Carousel.”
The Carousel, part of the full Sonoma layout originally unveiled when the track opened in 1968, plunges from turn four down through turns five and six and navigates a more than 200-degree radius turn before dropping onto Sonoma’s longest straightaway from the turn-seven hairpin.
NASCAR first utilized the full 12-turn road course during its first Pacific Coast Late Model Division race at what was then called Sears Point Raceway in 1969 and on through numerous Cup Series, West Series, Southwest Series and Truck Series events until 1997. Since 1998, NASCAR had competed on a shorter, 1.99-mile configuration that bypassed The Carousel by connecting turns four and seven and calling it “The Chute.”
The full track is back for 2019 and only three active NASCAR drivers have experienced The Carousel at Sonoma Raceway.
Kyle Busch drove a Legends car there in 1998 and Jimmie Johnson drove it once in a driving school.
But Kevin Harvick may have the most “experience.”
Harvick started 31st and finished 35th, completing only 18 of the 50 laps in the 1995 Budweiser 200 NASCAR Southwest Tour Series race. He was driving the No. 55 Foster’s Freeze Chevrolet, which had engine problems early in the race.
The event was conducted on May 6, 1995 and it’s interesting to note where everyone was 24 years ago. Harvick’s team co-owner Gene Haas was continuing to build Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America but hadn’t formed a NASCAR team, yet.
Harvick’s other team co-owner Tony Stewart just started his successful quest to the win the United States Auto Club triple-crown, which meant winning the title in the sanctioning body’s Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget divisions.
Crew chief Rodney Childers was highly successful in karting, driving for a factory team with which he would win two national championships and three state championships.
Who knew that all four would come together years later to form a championship team?
Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at this weekend’s SaveMart 350k at Sonoma, and he’ll do so with Mobil 1 technology on board as a sponsor and technical partner.
Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR organization with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.
It’s been a long time since May 6, 1995. “This is how we do it,” by Montell Jordan was the No. 1 song, gas was $1.14 a gallon and Seinfeld was No. 1 on television.
But no one knew on May 6, 1995, that Haas, Stewart, Harvick and Childers would form one of the great teams in the long history of the NASCAR Cup Series.