Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Odds & Ends - Sonoma
VegasInsider.com

Sonoma Data

Race #: 16 of 36 (06-24-12)
Track Size: 1.99 miles
Race Length: 110 laps / 219 miles/ 350 Kilometers
Number of Turns: 12

Top 12 Driver Rating at Sonoma

Marcos Ambrose 108.8
Tony Stewart 107.9
Kurt Busch 106.1
Juan Pablo Montoya 104.0
Jeff Gordon 99.1
Jimmie Johnson 94.1
Ryan Newman 93.5
Kyle Busch 92.1
Jamie McMurray 86.6
Carl Edwards 85.8
Clint Bowyer 85.1
Elliott Sadler 84.9

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (seven total) at Sonoma.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Joey Logano, (93.256 mph, 76.821 seconds)
2011 race winner: Kurt Busch, (75.411 mph, 2:54:10, 06-26-11)
Track qualifying record: Jeff Gordon, (94.325 mph, 75.950 seconds, 06-24-05)
Track race record: Ricky Rudd, (81.007 mph, 2:42:08, 06-23-02)
Driver Ratings for Winners

Driver/Year (Driver Rating Series-Driver Rating Rank)

Kurt Busch/2011 (100.0-5th)
Jimmie Johnson/2010 (80.4-18th)
Kasey Kahne/2009 (58.7-30th)
Kyle Busch/2008 (90.6-10th)
Juan Pablo Montoya/2007 (N/A-1st race at Sonoma)
Jeff Gordon/2006 (77.2-19th)

* Pre-Race Driver Ratings of the year the driver won at Sonoma (last six races).

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Driver Highlights - Sonoma
VegasInsider.com

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Stanley Ford)

Two top fives, three top 10s
Average finish of 14.0
Average Running Position of 11.2, fourth-best
Series-best Driver Rating of 108.8
45 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 89.877 mph
150 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 10th-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota)

Three top fives, four top 10s
Average finish of 11.2
Average Running Position of 16.7, 11th-best
Driver Rating of 85.1, 11th-best
Series-high 455 Green Flag Passes
166 Quality Passes, seventh-most
   
Kurt Busch (No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet)

One win, four top fives, four top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 18.3
Series-best Average Running Position of 10.0
Driver Rating of 106.1, third-best
23 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.551 mph, third-fastest
593 Laps in the Top 15 (76.5%), second-most
170 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota)

One win, one top five, two top 10s
Average finish of 18.9
Driver Rating of 92.1, eighth-best
45 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.479 mph, fifth-fastest

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)

One top five, three top 10s
Average finish of 16.6
Average Running Position of 16.0, ninth-best
Driver Rating of 85.8, 10th-best
22 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
433 Green Flag Passes, second-most
162 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)

Five wins, 12 top fives, 15 top 10s; five poles
Average finish of 8.7
Average Running Position of 13.4, sixth-best
Driver Rating of 99.1, fifth-best
47 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
406 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.444 mph, sixth-fastest
482 Laps in the Top 15 (62.2%), fifth-most
187 Quality Passes, third-most

Robby Gordon (No. 7 MAPEI Dodge)

One win, three top fives, four top 10s
Average finish of 21.4
Driver Rating of 83.8, 13th-best
50 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
431 Green Flag Passes, third-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.311 mph, eighth-fastest
352 Laps in the Top 15 (45.4%), 13th-most
133 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

One win, three top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 14.7
Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
Driver Rating of 94.1, sixth-best
48 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
513 Laps in the Top 15 (66.2%), fourth-most
191 Quality Passes, second-most

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet)

One top five, one top 10; one pole
Average finish of 16.9
Average Running Position of 16.9, 13th-best
Driver Rating of 86.6, ninth-best
15 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.291 mph, ninth-fastest
379 Laps in the Top 15 (48.9%), 11th-most

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)

One win, one top five, four top 10s
Average finish of 9.0
Average Running Position of 10.7, third-best
Driver Rating of 104.0, fourth-best
17 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.540 mph, fourth-fastest
448 Laps in the Top 15 (80.7%), seventh-most
179 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 Quicken Loans/Children's Tumor Foundation Chevrolet)

Two top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 12.4
Average Running Position of 12.4, fifth-best
Driver Rating of 93.5, seventh-best
387 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.382 mph, seventh-fastest
551 Laps in the Top 15 (71.1%), third-most
177 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

Two wins, four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 11.5
Average Running Position of 10.1, second-best
Driver Rating of 107.9, second-best
Series-high 73 Fastest Laps Run
374 Green Flag Passes, 13th-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 89.829 mph, second-fastest
Series-high 603 Laps in the Top 15 (77.8%)
Series-high 220 Quality Passes

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Driver Notes & Quotes for 2012 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma
NASCAR.com

KEVIN HARVICK ON SONOMA: “I love road racing. Sonoma is obviously very close to my hometown in Bakersfield, Calif., so you get a lot of family and friends that come out, but just the change of pace is something that I enjoy. I grew up racing go-karts on roadcourses so going to Sonoma and getting to race one of the two road courses we have on the schedule during the year should be fun.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 395 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 Chevrolet was built new for competition in 2012 and will be put through its first competitive laps this weekend at Sonoma.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race chassis No. 357 from the Richard Childress RacingNASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend. This No. 31 Chevrolet, built during the 2011 season, was driven by RCR teammate Kevin Harvick last year at Sonoma where he started 26th and finished ninth.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 358 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new in 2011, this No. 27 Chevrolet was last utilized in competition at the 2011 Sprint Cup Series race at the Sonoma, Calif.-based road course.

RYAN NEWMAN ON ROAD COURSE RACING: “I like road courses. They are difficult to pass on. It seems like there are only a couple of passing zones. I’ve always said the more corners there are without passing zones, the more opportunities there are to fall behind the guy who’s in front of the guy who’s in front of you. Road courses are unique in their own right. I wish we had a third one because I think they are fun. I enjoy hustling the racecar around the track, and Sonoma’s a good road course. Personally, I enjoy Watkins Glen a bit more, but I enjoy them both and I look forward to racing out there. It’s a big track-position race, and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there. But it’s the same for everybody. In road-course racing, the driver, in my mind, can make up more than he can at an oval just being able to hustle a car. You have the added mannerism, I guess you could say, of braking. When you brake at short tracks, it’s not the same as when you brake and downshift. So, you have to be a smooth downshifter, you have to be a good braker. Obviously, you have to turn right. There are extra characteristics, I guess, that you have to include at road courses that you don’t have to include at ovals. That separates the men from the boys, typically.”

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 McDonald’s team will bring Chassis #1012 to Sonoma this weekend. This road course chassis will make its third Sonoma appearance and fifth race, overall. This chassis has finished 15th at Sonoma twice, and earned sixth and 17th place finishes at Watkins Glen in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON SONOMA: “A lot of memories from Sonoma. Good and bad. Obviously I got my first Cup win there five years ago but ever since then we’ve struggled. Which is surprising considering how well we run at Watkins Glen. We tested at VIR a couple of months back and I was really happy with the car so hopefully we figured something out coming into the race this weekend. You’re at that point in the season where you need to step things up. It’s really important for us to run well at Sonoma and have a strong finish for the Target team.”

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will bring Chassis #1014 to Sonoma this weekend. This chassis boasts a victory at Watkins Glen in 2010 and a seventh-place finish in 2011. It finished 10th and 15th at Sonoma in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Chassis #1014 has led a total of 80 laps; two of those laps were at Sonoma.

MARCOS AMBROSE ON SONOMA: “Sonoma is a great track and I love it. It is one of the smallest, most technical, race tracks that a driver can go to, and we are going there with one of the biggest, laziest, dinosaurs you could ever imagine. A stock car around that place is unreal. I never imagined we could run so fast at that kind of place with as little throttle as we do. It’s really just all about momentum and looking after your tires and that’s what makes Sonoma so great. It’s also what makes the racing fantastic, because it is all in the drivers hands and I like that type of racing. Sonoma is one of my favorite races of all time.”

AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 772 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Sonoma. This Stanley Ford was previously tested this season at Virginia International Raceway.

CARL EDWARDS ON SONOMA: “Sonoma is one of the most fun tracks we go to. It is real slippery and it is so much different than what most of us grew up racing, it is a huge challenge. To me, it is one of the tracks I look forward to the most. We have had really goodraces and bad races there but it is challenging. It is so neat to drive a stock car like that with all the horsepower and you are shifting gears and jumping off curbs and locking up the tires. There is a lot of driving going on. It is a very physical race and it is usually hot out there and grueling. A good run there, to me, is special. It says a lot about not only the car and team, but there is a lot of pride as a driver to run well because it is so much work.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The Aflac team will be bringing chassis RK-816 this weekend to Sonoma. It is a new carthat the team tested at VIR.

GREG BIFFLE ON SONOMA: “I’m looking forward to Sonoma. I love road racing, it’s a lot of fun. The thing I don’t like about it is the restarts. Everybody gets bunched up going in the corner, people are in the grass, people are everywhere. Restarts are rough, but other than that I really enjoy it and I’m looking for a top-five finish. I guarantee there will be action this weekend.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-764 Last ran Watkins Glen – finished 31st

BRIAN VICKERS ON SONOMA: “I’m really looking to getting back into the No. 55 Toyota at Sonoma — especially after being away for so long, but it has been great to continue to build a relationship and run with (owner) Rob Kauffman. The No. 55 team has been running very well with Mark and I hope I can continue that momentum. They were SO close at Pocono. Rodney and the guys gave me a great car at the VIR test. We ran very competitive laps times against some guys that are considered the road race experts. So I am pretty pumped about that. I’ve had some success at Sonoma too. The last being the pole in 2009 and leading a bunch of laps before getting caught up in an incident.

VICKERS CHASSIS CHOICE: 690 – first race in 2012.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER ON SONOMA: “As always, the key for Sonoma is keeping all four wheels on the track. You need your car set up to be able to make your move underneath entering Turn 11 because that is the major passing point on the track. The biggest thing is that you have to have forward drive off all the way through the ‘esses’ andthat’s certainly what we’ll be hoping to have working for us this weekend.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON SONOMA: “It took a while, but I’ve become a big fan of road courseracing over the last couple of years. As a racecar driver, it’s not easy when you have to step out of your comfort zone and road course racing was definitely uncomfortable to me. Now it’s something I take a lot of pride in. Versatility, in this sport or any sport, is a good thing. The two drivers that came before me in the Miller Lite Dodge were good road course racers and I hope to be able to continue to carry on that tradition. We’ve been close before, but a road course win would rank right up there with the best wins of my career.”

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Sonoma Toyota/Save Mart 350 Storylines
NASCAR.com

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 19th career victory at Michigan International Speedway dramatically changed the conversation from “when” to “what’s next?” Earnhardt emphatically ended a four-year, 143-race winless drought and closed to within four points of championship leader Matt Kenseth. The victory further cemented the 37-year-old Earnhardt’s status as a legitimate title contender.

NASCAR goes road racing this weekend: the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its annual pilgrimage to Sonoma, north of San Francisco while the NASCAR Nationwide Series tackles Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West shares the Sonoma track while GRAND-AM Road Racing is in action at Road America.

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, a five-time Sonoma winner, said road racing no longer is an after-thought for many teams. The new car has leveled the playing field and double-file restarts contribute to short track style competition. Sonoma’s Toyota/Save-Mart 350 has seen seven consecutive different winners – the last four for the first time in a Sprint Cup road race.

To be determined is how the top three in current NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings will fare. Kenseth, Earnhardt and Greg Biffle are winless as road racers in NASCAR’s premier series.

Chase “wild card” action continues to simmer with two road racing experts joining the top 20 in points following the Michigan weekend. Former Sonoma winner Juan Pablo Montoya (19th) and Gordon (20th) are now eligible for a post-season berth if they can amass enough wins.

With neither Carl Edwards nor Reed Sorenson in the field, there will be a new winner of the SARGENTO 200. Richard Childress Racing teammates Elliott Sadler and Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader Austin Dillon are one-two in points entering the season’s first of three road course races.

The Road America field is full of part-time road racing specialists including Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Watkins Glen International NNS winner Ron Fellows of Canada.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors Nelson Piquet Jr. and Miguel Paludo take advantage of an off week in the schedule to compete at Road America with the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The trucks return to competition on Thursday, June 28 at Kentucky Speedway.

Junior Eyes Next Goal: A Road Course Win

Ending a 143-race winless streak at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday just whetted Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s appetite. Junior obviously wants to join his late father Dale Earnhardt as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. First, he wants a road course victory and he’ll get his next opportunity at Sonoma on Sunday. Junior has yet to finish in the top 10 at the 1.99-mile layout but has a pair of top-five finishes at Watkins Glen International, the other left and right turn course on the schedule.

“We have to go to Sonoma and figure out how to get around there and how to get my first top-ten at that place. We have a lot (left) to accomplish this year,” he said. Accident damage and overheating relegated Junior to a 41st-place finish at Sonoma in 2011.

Points Leaders More Than Just Contenders

Roush Fenway Racing vs. Hendrick Motorsports. Ford vs. Chevrolet. What’s not to like about that? The two organizations/manufacturers share the top four spots in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with RFR’s Matt Kenseth holding a four-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Greg Biffle, who led the points for much of the year, is third followed by five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Not to rule out anyone among the top 10 – or Wild Card possibles as well – but the four leaders are red hot. They claimed all but one top five positions in Michigan.

Gordon: Road Course Racing Changes For The Better

Jeff Gordon is a five-time Sonoma winner but that doesn’t mean he’s got the keys to the Northern California course in his pocket. Far from it. Gordon last won in 2006 – the season before the current NASCAR Sprint Cup chassis was introduced. The new car has evened the playing field and brought more contenders into the mix. No longer do many teams bring older, short track cars to the road courses. And, Gordon added, double-file restarts have made the road races more like Martinsville’s slamming and shoving than traditional, follow the leaders and hit your marks affairs.

Want more proof? Sonoma’s last seven races have produced seven different winners. The last four – Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch – posted their first Sprint Cup road course victories.

It’s the annual homecoming race for Gordon, who was born in Vallejo a few miles east of Sonoma. Busch, Kahne, Johnson and the Busch brothers also hail from the west coast along with Watkins Glen road race winner Kevin Harvick.

Who’s Next To Join Road Race Winners’ List?

If there’s an eighth different Sonoma winner he could be Clint Bowyer or Brad Keselowski. Both are battling to retain top-10 points positions and each has a knack for turning left and right. Bowyer, ninth in the standings, finished seventh in Michigan. He owns the third-best average finish among active drivers (11.2) at Sonoma trailing only Jeff Gordon (8.7) and Juan Pablo Montoya (9.0). Keselowski is a relative newcomer to NASCAR Sprint Cup road racing but finished 10thin last year’s Sonoma race and was second at Watkins Glen after Marcos Ambrose initiated a pass two laps from the checkered flag. Keselowski stands 10th – three points ahead of another non-road race winner Carl Edwards.

Speaking of JPM

It’s been a trying year and half for Juan Pablo Montoya, who entered last weekend’s Michigan race with a single top-10 finish and a points ranking outside the top 20. The Columbian finished eighth running among the top 10 throughout the second half of the 400-mile race. “Our team has a lot of potential and today we showed a little bit of what we can do,” said Montoya who accomplished one goal: reaching the top 20 and a shot at a “wild card” entry into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. JPM qualified for NASCAR’s post season just once finishing eighth in 2009. He scored his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Sonoma in 2007.

Jeff Gordon also became Wild Card eligible (20th) with his sixth-place finish but the category’s leaders remain Kyle Busch (12th), Ryan Newman (13th), Joey Logano (15th) and Kasey Kahne (16th). Each has a single win. The two highest ranked competitors with the most wins occupying points positions 11-20 qualify for the post season.

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Leave it to Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make the biggest splash of the 2012 NASCAR season with his dominating Michigan performance last Sunday that ended a 143-race winless drought. It wasn’t so much that it had been nearly four years to the date of his last win, or that it came on the same track, it was the manner in which it happened, more specifically, occurring on Father’s Day.

It also helps the moment that half the crowd wearing their green No. 88 gear at the track finally got to see their driver win a race and had the stands looking like a frenzied Shea Stadium after Bill Buckner booted the ball in the 1986 World Series. The crowd was as loud as I’ve heard a NASCAR race since July of 2001, another Junior win coming at Daytona the year his Father passed away.

The only person probably happier to see Junior win was NASCAR President Brian France, who admitted before the season that NASCAR would be greatly helped if Junior was winning races.

The effect of Junior’s win should be a tidal wave of renewed enthusiasm for NASCAR which means a boom for television ratings. NASCAR ratings have either dropped or been flat over the last four years and while the economy has been attributed to some of the declines, a lot of it has to do with Junior not being successful.

Junior fans are passionate and proud, but they haven’t had a lot to cheer about. Losing 143 straight times as a fan in any sport can be a heavy burden to carry. A lot of the “Junior Nation” had a thought process that went “Why should I waste my Sunday afternoon going to the race or watching it on television when the most likely scenario is being strapped with an inevitable loss?”

Losing teams always have lower attendance in every sport, but the franchise of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is now on a winning streak. He also has himself firmly entrenched in second-place of the standings, four points behind Matt Kenseth.

With the way he’s been running all season, most knew a win was on the horizon, but what about winning the championship? Could Dale Earnhardt Jr. actually be in line to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship? If the answer is yes, you had better make a run over to the LVH Super Book at get your 10/1 future ticket (Bet $100 to win $1,000).

One thing is certain this week, we won’t be seeing Junior get back-to-back wins because this week’s race is on the road course in Sonoma, a place where Junior has never cracked the Top-10 in 12 career starts.

When I look at the candidates to win this week, I can’t seem to take my eyes off the name of Jeff Gordon. Maybe I’m searching for feel-good stories like we had last week, but it just seems like a good spot for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. In the last month we’ve seen Gordon’s teammates of Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Earnhardt Jr. all win. The only goose egg on the team board belongs to Gordon.

Gordon needs wins to get into “The Chase” and he has the luxury over the next two months of racing on two tracks where he has a considerable advantage. Gordon is a five-time winner at Sonoma and a four time winner at Watkins Glen, but hasn’t tasted victory on either track since 2006.

Gordon has shrugged off the recent winless streak on the road courses saying the races didn’t mean as much in their overall picture which is why his team focused less on his road set-ups than they did in the past when he was dominating, but these races now mean everything to his season. Because he’s sitting 20th in points and has virtually no chance at making the Chase based on points, he needs to get at least two wins to secure one of the final two at-large bids that go to the drivers with the most wins. There are currently four drivers ahead of him with one win each.

Gordon was runner-up last season at Sonoma and hasn’t finished outside the top-10 in the five races since his last win there. Look for Gordon to treat this race like the most important race of his season and fight not to just finish in the top-5, but fight for the win. I like the desperation angle this week.

The driver Gordon will to beat will be Marcos Ambrose, who finally got his first Cup win last season at Watkins Glen after several near misses. Ambrose finds himself in the same situation as Gordon regarding the Chase, except he's in 17th-place. Ambrose could find himself making the Chase by grabbing both road races, a situation that seems far more probable than Gordon's.

And Ambrose really loves the layout of the track.

“Sonoma is a great track and I love it," Ambrose said earlier this week. "It is one of the smallest, most technical, race tracks that a driver can go to, and we are going there with one of the biggest, laziest, dinosaurs you could ever imagine. A stock car around that place is unreal. I never imagined we could run so fast at that kind of place with as little throttle as we do. It’s really just all about momentum and looking after your tires and that’s what makes Sonoma so great. It’s also what makes the racing fantastic, because it is all in the drivers hands and I like that type of racing. Sonoma is one of my favorite races of all time.”

A driver that you always have to pay attention to at Sonoma is Juan Pablo Montoya just because of his long history of road racing in all major racing series. He won his first career race at Sonoma in his first try, but hasn't finished better than sixth in his last four attempts.

“A lot of memories from Sonoma. Good and bad," said Montoya who is currently 16th in points. "Obviously I got my first Cup win there five years ago but ever since then we’ve struggled. Which is surprising considering how well we run at Watkins Glen. We tested at VIR a couple of months back and I was really happy with the car so hopefully we figured something out coming into the race this weekend. You’re at that point in the season where you need to step things up. It’s really important for us to run well at Sonoma and have a strong finish for the Target team."

The driver that wins will probably stick to the game plan regarding fuel strategy without much alteration. The goal is to make only two pit stops. Sometimes that goal gets compromised when a caution occurs a bit earlier than the initial game plan allows for. To keep control of their fate it's also important to qualify well and run up front. Trouble usually finds those who are mired in the back, especially on double-file restarts.

Looking forward to a change of pace on the season.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
2) #29 Kevin Harvick (8/1)
3) #9 Marcos Ambrose (4/1)
4) #14 Tony Stewart (5/1)
5) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (6/1)

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: Sonoma
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.

Who's HOT at Sonoma

• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with five wins.
• Jimmie Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the last three races, including a win in 2010.
• Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 2007 race, is second among all drivers in average finish (9.0).
• Tony Stewart has eight top 10s in 13 starts, including two wins.
• Marcos Ambrose has a 4.7 average finish in his last three starts.
• Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in four of his last five starts.

Keep an Eye On at Sonoma

• Kevin Harvick has finished in the top 10 in his last two starts.
•  Boris Said, who has finished in the top 10 five times at Somona, will be racing the No. 32 Ford this weekend.
• 2008 winner Kyle Busch has led the most laps (88) in the five Sonoma races with the COT chassis.
• AJ Allmendinger (9.7), Carl Edwards (10.8) and Kasey Kahne (14.2) each are among the top 10 leaders in average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen).
• Kurt Busch is the defending race winner.
• Robby Gordon, winner of the 2003 race, scored his second runner-up finish at Sonoma in 2010.
• Ryan Newman has completed 551 laps while running in the top 15 at Sonoma.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Marcos Ambrose
Pete Pistone: Tony Stewart
Ricky Hamber: Kyle Busch
John Singler: Jeff Gordon

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Sonoma unless noted)

Matt Kenseth: Only top 10 in 12 starts came in the 2008 race; Has yet to lead a lap; 21.5 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 771) that he last finished 14th with at Watkins Glen International.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Has yet to record a top 10 in 12 starts; Best finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports came in 2010 in 11th; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 601) that he last finished 15th with at Watkins Glen International.

Greg Biffle: Last of three top 10s in nine starts came in 2010; 15.8 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 764) that he finished 31st with at Watkins Glen.

Jimmie Johnson: Winner of the 2010 race; 4.0 average finish in the last three races; Fourth among all drivers with a 10.3 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 543) that he's piloted in the last three Sonoma races.

Denny Hamlin: Last of two top 10s in six starts came in 2009; Has combined to lead 45 laps in last three starts.

Kevin Harvick: Has finished in the top 10 in last two starts; 16.1 average finish in 11 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 395) in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Martin Truex Jr: Coming off first top 10 in six starts; 25.0 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Tony Stewart: Has finishes of second and ninth in two of his three starts with Stewart Haas Racing; Finished 39th last year after a crash; Tied for eighth among all drivers with a 14.2 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen); Will debut a new car (chassis No. 731) in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Clint Bowyer: Has finished fourth in three of the last five races; Will make track debut with Michael Waltrip Racing in a car (chassis No. 632) that was previously raced by the No. 47 team at Sonoma.

Brad Keselowski: Coming off first top 10 in two starts; 22.5 average finish; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 806) in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Carl Edwards: Finished third last year for third top 10 in seven starts; Fifth among all drivers with a 10.8 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen); Will debut a new car (chassis No. RK-816) in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Kyle Busch: Winner of the 2008 race; Wins was last of two top 10s in seven starts; Ninth among all drivers with a 14.5 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen).

Ryan Newman: Last of five top 10s came in 2008; 19.3 average finish in three starts with Stewart Haas; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 661) that he finished 25th with last season at Sonoma.

Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 15 in four starts; 23.5 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 358) that he finished 32nd with at Sonoma in 2011.

Joey Logano: Won the pole and finished sixth last season; Finish is only top 10 in three starts.

Kasey Kahne: Won the 2009 race with Richard Petty Motorsports; Won the pole and finished in the top five in two of the last four races; Tied for Seventh among all drivers with a 14.2 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen); Will make first track start with Hendrick Motorsports in the same car (chassis No. 674) that Mark Martin finished 19th and 25th, respectively, with last year in the road course events.

Marcos Ambrose: Has finished sixth or better in his last three starts; Leads all drivers with a 3.3 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen); Will pilot a car (chassis No. 772) that he tested at Virginia International Raceway.

Jamie McMurray: Lone top 10 came in 2004 in second; 16.9 average finish in nine starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1012) that he finished 15th with at Sonoma the past two seasons.

Juan Montoya: Winner of the 2007 race; Has finished in the top 10 in four of his five starts; Second among all drivers with a 8.7 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1014) that he respectively finished 10th and 15th with at Sonoma in 2010 and 2011. This car also went to Victory Lane at Watkins Glen.

Jeff Gordon: Leads all drivers in wins (5), top 10s (15); poles (5) and laps led (437); Has finished ninth or better in last six races; Sixth among all drivers with a 12.7 average finish in the last six road course events (Sonoma and Watkins Glen).

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Fantasy Preview
By Greg Engle

For the first time this season the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will be turning left and right as the series heads to Sonoma for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, the first road course race of the year.

One driver has been competitive almost everywhere this season and Sunday Marcos Ambrose could be poised to go all the way to victory lane. Ambrose won last year’s race at Watkins Glen and was fifth here last season. With the way Ambrose has been running this season he is the favorite to add another road course win to his resume this Sunday.

The three time Australian Super Car champion is constantly a force to be reckoned on the road courses and is always expected to shine. For Ambrose though the pressure to perform is the same on ovals and road courses.

“The expectation of me succeeded at a road course race is obviously very high, but that doesn’t change,” Ambrose said. “I’m driving the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion for Richard Petty to win every race and not just two road course races, so I apply myself the same every week. The pressure is not much different, it’s just the weight of expectations this weekend and at Watkins Glen – the expectation of success is what we have to balance out.”

Jeff Gordon once owned Sonoma’s road course. He’s won here five times, including three victories in a row between 1998 and 2000. But Gordon’s last victory came in 2006 before the introduction of the current car.

"We’re not able to shift things (weight) around as much as we used to,” Gordon said. “This car doesn’t change direction as much. It made it a little more challenging to drive and it’s really leveled the playing field."

Another element Gordon says has changed the road courses is the double file restarts.

"You have to push and shove a lot more to get that position after a restart," he said. "After a restart, that’s nowadays where the excitement comes on the road course."

Coming off a sixth place finish last week at Michigan and with a second place here last season, Gordon could turn his season around with a win Sunday.

Juan Pablo Montoya is also looking to kick start his season. Montoya finished eighth last week at Michigan and while it was only his second among the top 10 through the year’s first 15 races, it did move him into 19th in points, eligible for the Wild Card slot. All he needs is a win and with a victory here in 2007 and the momentum of last week’s finish, Montoya could surprise with a win Sunday.

Party Crasher: Tony Stewart has two wins here, in 2001 and 2005. He crashed out last year but has a top ten and a top five in the two previous races before that. Stewart also has the second highest driver rating in the top ten, a 107.9 just behind Ambrose who comes into Sonoma with a 108.8. Stewart has been hold and cold this season; if he is hot Sunday he could easily steal the show Sunday.

Bottom Line:

Five of 23 races have been won by the pole winner, including three times by Jeff Gordon. His victory from the pole in 2004 is the most recent. The lowest starting position by a race winner was 32nd, by Juan Pablo Montoya; it also was his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.

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Marcos Ambrose
Jeff Gordon
Juan Pablo Montoya

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Tony Stewart

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Re: Toyota/Save Mart 350 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Practice Notes - Sonoma

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Qualifying     Practice 2     Practice 3
1     Jeff Gordon     6/1     1st     2nd     1st     1st
Notes: Five-time winner; using best car he’s had on a road course since his last win in 2006.

2     Marcos Ambrose     3/1     7th     1st     2nd     11th
Notes: Finished sixth or better in past thee starts; fastest average speeds in final practice.

3     Juan Pablo Montoya     8/1     22nd     12th     4th     3rd
Notes: 2007 winner and 2010 Watkins Glen winner; won on streets of Monaco in Formula-1.

4     A.J. Allmendinger     40/1     11th     17th     3rd     5th
Notes: Five-time Champ Car winner on road/street circuits; driving for team that won in 2011.

5     Jimmie Johnson     6/1     10th     3rd     7th     4th
Notes: Using winning 2010 chassis this week; improving on roads, strong in all practice sessions.

6     Kyle Busch     10/1     5th     7th     6th     10th
Notes: 2008 winner who also won at Watkins Glen the same year. Consistently good in practice.

7     Clint Bowyer     30/1     3rd     6th     9th     14th
Notes: Finished career best of fourth on three occasions; quick average speeds in practice.

8     Carl Edwards     30/1     13th     11th     16th     7th
Notes: Career best finish of third last season; using new car that tested on Virginia road course.

9     Tony Stewart     6/1     24th     24th     17th     21st
Notes: Two-time winner with five other wins road wins at Watkins Glen; struggled in practice.

10     Brad Keselowski     25/1     15th     13th     5th     24th
Notes: Career best of 10th last season, runner-up at Watkins Glen. Good average times in practice.

Betting Notes: Despite the road courses being more about the driver than the car like at other tracks, it doesn’t necessarily translate to long shots winning at the betting window. Sure, we’ve had a few surprises like Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson win at Sonoma in the recent past, but we still haven’t been shocked with a driver winning at 25-to-1 or higher odds.

This is why a betting strategy for Sonoma goes a little different than at other tracks. You have to respect the top speeds from practice a little more and wager upon fewer drivers. At Talladega or Daytona you can bet up to 10 drivers as various amounts and feel comfortable about the possibly hitting a driver with huge odds. At places like Charlotte or Texas, you can narrow it down to about four or five drivers.

When we hit the road courses, you have to decrease the amount of play on other drivers because the top drivers have such low odds. If playing more than two or three drivers at Sonoma, it severely decreases your profit margin when the favorite does win.

In this week's case, a favorite should win and his name is Jeff Gordon. After everything we’ve seen over the weekend in practice, there really isn’t another logical choice than Gordon to begin all wagering strategies with. Finding 6-to-1 odds like Gordon was most of the week is now going to be tough to find.

Following Gordon, Marcos Ambrose is the nest best choice. If betting both of those drivers, you’ve got a great chance to win, but at the lowest odds offered on the board. So it’s almost like you have to take one of those top tiered drivers and then take a shot with longer odds from drivers like A.J. Allmendinger or Juan Pablo Montoya.

The area to play around with a little bit more than the odds to win is in driver matchups. You want a good quality finish and try to find the biggest mismatches. Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer should both be drivers to key on that should fare well. Tony Stewart had a terrible bunch of practices, but it’s likely his prices will be drastically dropped because of those poor practices which in turn, offers value on one of the best road racers out there.

Another driver that may have odds stacked against him because of history and mediocre practices is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s never had a top-10 finish at Sonoma, but he’s also never had a consistent run on every type of track like he’s had this year. Junior leads all drivers with 12 top-10 finishes this season.

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