RaceDayScore NASCAR: Toyota Save Mart 350

RaceDayScore NASCAR: Toyota Save Mart 350

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.

Toyota Save Mart 350

Location: Sonoma, Calif.
Course: Sonoma Raceway
Format: 1.9-mile road course
Laps: 110

Race Preview

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series returns from a week off to face the first of two road course visits of the season. Kyle Busch enters the gates at Sonoma Raceway as the defending race winner, while it was Joey Logano who made the breakthrough to score his first win of 2016 two weeks ago in Michigan. The dominant Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have started to feel their edge over the rest of the field narrow, as teams like Penske Racing and Stewart Haas have snatched wins in recent weeks. The field may get another chance to square up to the JGR cars again this week at one of the more unpredictable tracks on the calendar.

Key Stats at Sonoma Raceway

Number of previous races: 27
Winners from pole: 5
Winners from top-5 starters: 15
Winners from top-10 starters: 19
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 2
Fastest race: 83.624 mph

Last 10 Sonoma Winners

2015 - Kyle Busch
2014 - Carl Edwards
2013 - Martin Truex Jr.
2012 - Clint Bowyer
2011 - Kurt Busch
2010 - Jimmie Johnson
2009 - Kasey Kahne
2008 - Kyle Busch
2007 - Juan Pablo Montoya
2006 - Jeff Gordon

There are two road courses on the Sprint Cup schedule, and the first comes this week in California. The nearly 2.0-mile circuit features steep elevation changes, a long lap time and a flowing Ss section leading to the final hairpin turn. The heavy Sprint Cup machines aren't well suited to this type of racing, and throwing the cars into the turns and over the curbs will be the key to fast times. Passing is always at a premium at Sonoma, and that means qualifying is a very important exercise this week. Coming from deep in the field to lead has been done before, but it takes a special driver to pull it off. Drivers will often nudge cars in front out of the way to make passes, and the lap distance can offer teams an opportunity to play unique pit strategies to make sure they have the all-important advantage of track position in the final laps.

RACE DAY SCORE VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Kevin Harvick - $12,300
Jimmie Johnson - $11,800
Kurt Busch - $11,500

Tier 2 Values

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $10,500
Ryan Newman - $10,400
Paul Menard - $10,000
Clint Bowyer - $10,000

Tier 3 Values

Kasey Kahne - $9,900
Jamie McMurray - $9,900
Austin Dillon - $9,700
Aric Almirola - $9,500

Long-Shot Values

Regan Smith - $8,700
Cole Whitt - $8,000
Michael McDowell - $7,600

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Cash Game Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Jimmie Johnson - $11,800
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $10,500
Ryan Newman - $10,400
Tony Stewart - $9,900
Trevor Bayne - $9,500
Michael Annett - $7,600

Racing on road courses has become more normal for the Sprint Cup drivers, and their performances have significantly improved in recent seasons to the point where one-off road course ringer drivers and teams are largely marginalized. That is why Jimmie Johnson heads the lower-risk roster this week. He won at Sonoma in 2010 and hasn't finished outside of the top 10 at the track since 2009. Earnhardt has significantly improved at Sonoma, and heads into this weekend's race with back-to-back top-10s at the circuit. Newman's team is starting to click after early bad luck, and his average Sonoma finish from 14 career starts is 12.6. Sonoma could be a golden opportunity for Stewart to grab a win before retirement. He won twice at the track and finished 12th last season. Bayne only has one Sonoma start to his credit, but his positive finish differential of eight positions gives fantasy owners something to look forward to. Michael Annett's fantasy value this week is similar to Bayne's. He has two Sonoma starts and improved his finish by at least nine positions each time, and those are valuable points for rosters.

Higher-Risk Tournament Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Kurt Busch - $11,500
Paul Menard - $10,000
Clint Bowyer - $10,000
Kasey Kahne - $9,900
Austin Dillon - $9,700
Regan Smith - $8,700

The higher-risk lineup features the driver with the highest driver rating at Sonoma, Kurt Busch. He won this race in 2011 and hasn't finished lower than 12th at the track since, leading laps in all but one of those finishes. Menard's fifth-place finish in the 2014 edition of this race puts him among the preferred choices this week and he could use the unpredictable nature of this track to boost his flagging season. Bowyer is in need of a top finish, and Sonoma could offer him an opportunity to score one. He won this race in 2012 and has a career average finish of 8.6 at the track in 10 starts. Another former winner for this lineup is Kahne. He could also use a positive finish, and three consecutive top-10s at this track suggest he has a good chance of getting one. Dillon's two Sonoma starts gave him back-to-back finishes of 17th from starting spots outside of the top 20. Imagine what he could do if he qualifies better this weekend. Lastly, Regan Smith has four Sonoma starts with a best finish of 16th in 2011. He also led five laps in that race.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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