Jacksonville Sports Day

NASCAR NOTES: Father’s Day Fun for Logano

Joey Logano’s victory in Monday’s weather-delayed race in Michigan was the perfect Father’s Day send-off for the Team Penske driver.

The father of one-year old son Hudson retook the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points lead from Kyle Busch and gets to bask in victory for two weeks instead of one because of the Cup off-weekend.

It’s a strong and important statement that the reigning Monster Energy Series champion is very much in the hunt to defend his title and become the first to win back-to-back series trophies since Jimmie Johnson won five straight from 2006-2010.

It is also a well-needed dose of confidence heading into the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway – one of nine tracks on the schedule he has yet to win a Cup race at.

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford has a pair of top-five finishes and four top 10s in 10 previous starts at Sonoma.

His best finish was third in 2016. Both his top-five finishes have come in the last four-race stretch. He hasn’t led a lap at Sonoma, however, since 2014 and his 18 laps led total is the third-lowest mark of any track on the schedule.

The only places he’s led fewer laps in his title-winning career is at the other road courses in Watkins Glen, N.Y. (nine) and the Charlotte ROVAL (none).

While Logano has comparatively-speaking struggled at Sonoma Raceway, rival Kyle Busch has a pair of wins at Sonoma – in 2008 and 2015.

And Busch has finished seventh or better in the last four races there, including three top-five finishes. He’s led only 22 of his 110 total laps led at Sonoma in that time period, however, and finished fifth both in 2017 and 2018.

2019: Where champions and Victory Lane meet … regularly

The beauty of the 2019 season is two-fold.

One, we’re seeing several new faces mixing it up in the top 10, including Ryan Preece, Chris Buescher and William Byron – who has already matched his top-10 total from last year’s Sunoco Rookie season (four) – to name a few.

But more importantly, two, we’re seeing a steady stream of champions winning races.

Twelve of the 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this year have been won by a past series champion: Kyle Busch (four wins), Brad Keselowski (three), Martin Truex Jr. (three) and Joey Logano (two).

The only non-champion winners have been Denny Hamlin (Daytona and Texas) and Chase Elliott (Talladega).

The stat is a significant one, and could be telling as the season progresses. The championship quartet has expertly navigated the 2019 season thus far, using their vast skills to collect a plethora of trophies.

This championship quartet could work their way to the Championship 4 … it’ll be a fascinating watch.

Cheers to the defending race winner

Martin Truex Jr. joins Kyle Busch as the only active drivers with multiple Sonoma trophies (two each). The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is the defending race winner and also won it previously in 2013.

Truex has led 154 laps at Sonoma – 87 of them in just the last two races. It has seemed like all or nothing at times for the 2017 Monster Energy Series champion.

He has three finishes of 37th-place or worse since 2010 to go with his wins. And two of his last four races were DNFs due to an accident (2015) and engine problems (2017).

There are good vibes for Truex heading into California’s famed wine country, however. He has won three times in the season’s last seven races and led at least 100 laps in each victory (at Richmond, Dover and Charlotte).

With a third place showing on Monday at Michigan, Truex moved up a position in the points standings, to sixth place – 32 points behind Chase Elliott in fifth.

Home cooking for previous race winners

There are only two Sonoma trophies in 44 starts among the four native Californian drivers on the entry list – Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove) and Matt DiBenedetto (Grass Valley) – both veterans Jimmie Johnson (2010) and Kevin Harvick (2017) count Sonoma among their long list of career victories.

Harvick, of Bakersfield, Calif., has nine top-10 finishes in 18 starts, six of them top-five efforts. He has finished among the top-10 in five of the last six races. He answered his 2017 victory in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford with a runner-up finish last year. And he’s led 62 of his career total 95 laps led at Sonoma in just the past three races.

Johnson, of El Cajon, Calif., has nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts, including four top-five efforts. He won in 2010 in the midst of a seven-race run of top-10 finishes from 2009-2015. His 143 laps led is third behind Truex (154 laps led) and Kurt Busch (198) among active drivers. He finished 11th at Sonoma last year.

Kyle Larson, of Elk Grove, Calif., has shown promise, but not had the results yet at the Monster Energy Series level on the challenging Sonoma course. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver won from the pole position and led every lap in his Sonoma debut in the NASCAR K&N West Series in 2014. Unfortunately for Larson, the Cup races have been a different story. He is still looking for his first top-10 after five starts. He’s won the Busch Pole Award and has led laps in the last two races at Sonoma. Larson’s best finish on the famed road course is 12th (2016).

DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, Calif., is still looking for his first top-10 at Sonoma. The Leavine Family Racing driver has a best showing of 17th place last season.

 

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