“He is truly a local hero”, Sonoma Raceway general manager Steve Page said. “… Here I think there is a fine line and balance between (being aggressive)”.
It earned him his first Chase berth and was the crowning achievement for one of NASCAR’s smaller teams. He was in the middle of NASCAR’s boom in popularity outside of the southeastern United States. More NASCAR drivers now hail from California than the Carolinas, the sport’s traditional epicenter.
While growing up in Elk Grove just south of Sacramento, Kyle Larson benefited from the groundwork laid by Gordon. Brad Bradshaw said. “Following the implementation of this new traffic plan in 2014, we saw a substantial reduction in traffic issues during the events around the raceway”, Bradshaw said.
Suddenly, NASCAR’s most famous driver was reliving his childhood, surrounded by youngsters not much older than he was when he first drove a quarter-midget race vehicle at little Roy Hayer Memorial Race Track.
He has won five times – more than any other driver – at the 3.2-km road course.
“We know that if we go do our job and if I do my job tomorrow, and we have solid pit stops, and we just take care of business, at the end we should give ourselves a chance”, Allmendinger said. “He’s a huge personality in sports nationwide, but he particularly resonates with the Northern California audience more than any other driver”. When Jeff came along, nobody would even think of somebody in their early 20s.
He has not had a top 10 finish since the third race of the season.
GENTLE, GENTLE: Only at the short tracks like Martinsville and Bristol is it as hard and important to keep a race auto in one piece as it is at on a road course like Sonoma. Ticket sales for Sunday’s race have surged for Gordon’s final race in wine country. “The fact that AJ did shows what his talents are on a road course”. But it didn’t take long for him to become the best of his generation. Allmendinger narrowly outscored Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth for the pole. “But I try not to focus on putting the pressure on that this race is do or die, or Watkins Glen is do or die”.
NOT A FAN: As much as Allmendinger is looking forward to the road course, there are drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. who would rather do just about anything else on Sunday.
“After the first run we were third and I certainly got encouraged that I could make a few adjustments and hit my marks”, said Gordon, whose is making his final start at Sonoma before he retires from NASCAR at the end of the current season.
This race should provide viewers with lots of entertainment, as road courses always do. “That started forcing the teams and drivers to step up their game on the road courses”.
Underdog of the Weekend – Carl Edwards – He won at Sonoma last season with a very impressive run and held off a late Jeff Gordon push in the last turn.
Drivers such as Larson and Allmendinger are willing to do that for him.
He spent last Saturday visiting the first track he ever raced at in Rio Linda, then returned to his middle school in Vallejo for a question and answer session with students.
“When I go back to the very first time I was here it did not go quite so well”.