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Starting lineup for Toyota - Save Mart 350
See the full lineup for the Toyota - Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
Best in-car audio from the Toyota /Save Mart 350
Check out the best in-car audio from the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway as Tony Stewart gets his first win in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Fantasy Fastlane: Toyota - Save Mart 350
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Dale Jr., Larson lead Friday practices at Sonoma
Practice 2 " Results Dale Earnhardt Jr . led the final Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday at Sonoma Raceway with a high-speed of 95.298 mph. The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was fourth-fastest in the opening session at the Northern California road course. Casey Mears (No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet) was second-fastest to Earnhardt Jr. with a speed of 95.255 mph. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin (95.243 mph) and Carl Edwards (95.157 mph) were third and fourth-fastest, respectively. Defending race winner Kyle Busch was fifth-fastest (95.144 mph), completing the top-five fastest on the leaderboard. The No. 18 driver brought out a quick red flag during the final session when the left side of his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota struck a rabbit. Current Sprint Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick was 18th-fastest (94.518 mph) in the Sprint Cup Series' final practice session of the weekend. Kyle Larson , who was fastest in the opening session, was 11th-fastest (94.963 mph) in the closing session. The Sprint Cup Series returns to the road course at 2:15 p.m. ET on Saturday for the Coors Light Pole Qualifying (FS1). Practice 1 " Results Kyle Larson soared to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday at Sonoma Raceway. Larson powered the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet to a best lap of 95.141 mph on the 1.99-mile California road course. His speed was shy of the track qualifying record of 96.568 mph that he set in Coors Light Pole Qualifying last year. RELATED: Larson on brink of first premier series victory Jamie McMurray , Larson's teammate in the No. 1 Chevy, was second-fastest at 94.544 mph in the opening 1-hour, 55-minute session. McMurray suffered slight damage to the right-rear fender after a Turn 11 run-in with Tony Stewart late in the session. Former Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr . turned the third-best lap (94.498 mph) in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota . Dale Earnhardt Jr . (94.430 mph) and Carl Edwards (94.319 mph) completed the top five in opening preparation for Sunday's Toyota / Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Defending race winner Kyle Busch clocked the 14th-fastest lap in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota . The reigning Sprint Cup champion scored an emotional victory in this race last year, winning for the first time since suffering severe leg injuries in the 2015 XFINITY Series opener. Jimmie Johnson was best in the category of 10-consecutive-lap average, leading Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin under that heading. RELATED: Johnson talks road course struggles despite off-road background The session was interrupted by a lengthy red flag shortly after the practice began when Regan Smith 's Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet leaked an overflow of oil. With the problem remedied, Smith recorded the 34th-fastest lap of the 41 drivers entered.
Blaney balancing on bubble, but not focused on Chase -- yet
RELATED: Chase Grid NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and teams resume the pursuit of a position in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend as the series heads to Sonoma Raceway and the year's first road-course stop. Ten drivers have all but officially secured berths with one or more victories through the series' first 15 races. If there aren't at least 16 winners following the cutoff race at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10, the remainder of the field will be determined based on points positions. Last season, there were 11 winners, leaving five positions to be awarded based on points. Ten drivers have found themselves 16th in the standings at some point this year. Five have advanced; four have fallen by the wayside for now and one, Ryan Blaney , heads to Sonoma situated in the 16th position. Blaney, driver of the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, is aware of his situation, but says he pays no mind to his past or current points placement. "I don't care about it," he said during a recent organizational test for teams at Kentucky Speedway . "I really don't look at it." Blaney has been as high as 12th in the standings and as low as 21st. With 11 races remaining before the field is set for the 10-race, championship-determining format gets underway, there's little reason to panic. He enters Sunday's Toyota / Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) with an 11-point cushion on Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne and is 19 points ahead of 18th-place Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ). Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman (15th) is five points ahead of Blaney. Jamie McMurray sits 14th -- the driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet is five up on Newman and 10 on Blaney. "I don't like to look at that stuff," Blaney reiterated. "I think if we go on the race track and perform the way I know we should, and run toward the front of the field like we can do week in and week out, that stuff will take care of itself." Sunday's race will be Blaney's first Sprint Cup start on a road course but he is not alone. Fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Chris Buescher , Chase Elliott , Brian Scott and Jeffrey Earnhardt will be making their first Sprint Cup road-course starts as well. Both Blaney and Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) have one road-course win apiece in the Camping World Truck Series and both came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . Buescher ( Front Row Motorsports ) won at Mid-Ohio in 2014 while competing in the XFINITY Series. The Wood Brothers Racing team is making its first appearance at a road-course since the 2008 season when former driver Marcos Ambrose wheeled the No. 21 from 43rd to a third-place finish at Watkins Glen International . Blaney's father, Dave, also competed in that race. One of roughly a half dozen teams competing without a Charter this season (and thus no guaranteed starting spot in the 40-car fields), Wood Brothers Racing has eight road-course wins to its credit. Marvin Panch scored the first in 1965 at The Glen; Dan Gurney won four times and NASCAR Hall of Fame member David Pearson three at Riverside International Raceway. Blaney and his team, led by crew chief Jeremy Bullins, have one top five and six top-10 finishes this season. Two of the last three starts, however, have resulted in finishes of 20th (at Charlotte) and 17th (at Michigan), sandwiched around a 10th-place run at Pocono. A brush with the wall late in the second half of the Michigan race sent his No. 21 entry to pit road. Although he restarted 29th, Blaney did gain 12 positions in the closing laps of the 400-mile race. "We had a bad day," Blaney said. "It was unfortunate because we had a really good car. We should have run in the top five pretty easily. Just the circumstances we were put in really hurt us." Michigan was the most recent outing for the series. Teams will return to the 2-mile track in August. For now, though, Sonoma is the focus. Two practices are slated for Friday on the 12-turn, 1.99-mile layout. Qualifying for the 40-car field is scheduled for Saturday.
Stewart snaps 84-race skid, foils Hamlin in Sonoma thriller
RELATED: Race results " Updated standings SHOP: Stewart gear SONOMA, Calif. -- Is Tony Stewart having fun yet? In his last year of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, Stewart came to Sonoma Racing asserting on Friday he wasn't having much fun driving a Sprint Cup Series car. That all changed in Sunday's Toyota - Save Mart 350 at the 1.99-mile road course, where Stewart bulldozed Denny Hamlin into the outside wall in Turn 11, executing a dramatic last-lap pass for his first victory since June 2, 2013 at Dover to snap an 84-race losing skid. In the three years since that victory, a succession of injuries and a personal tragedy have limited the three-time champion's time in a Sprint Cup Series car and limited Stewart's effectiveness when he was behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet he co-owns with Gene Haas. RELATED: See Stewart's Victory Lane celebration But on Sunday, after a prescient pit call by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz put Stewart in the lead for a restart on Lap 91 of 110. Stewart held the top spot at the start/finish line for the rest of the race, but that hardly describes the excitement of the final lap. For the second straight circuit, Stewart wheel-hopped the No. 14 Chevrolet into Turn 7, and Hamlin took full advantage, giving Stewart a bump and charging past him. In hot pursuit through the esses and Turn 10, Stewart caught Hamlin in the hairpin (Turn 11) when Hamlin slipped and ran wide. "I made mistakes the last two laps," acknowledged Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season after injuring his back in an ATV accident during the offseason. "I had just a little bit too much rear brake for Turn 7, and wheel-hopped it two laps in a row. I felt a nudge when I got down there and he knew where it was and he did the right thing doing it there." "But if I could get to him, he knew what was coming. He told me (after the race) he was proud of me. He knows what it means. We were teammates for a long time (at Joe Gibbs Racing ), and we respect each other a lot." Contact from Stewart's car sent Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota fish-tailing into the outside wall, but Hamlin held the runner-up spot, crossing the stripe .625 seconds behind the race winner. "I take that, but I'm probably going to get the (crap) beat out of me," Stewart said on his radio, after notching his third victory at Sonoma , his eighth on a road course and the 49th of his career. MORE: From 1 to 49, see all of Stewart's wins Though disappointed at the outcome, Hamlin didn't begrudge Stewart the victory, given the circumstances. Stewart needed a win to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and with Sunday's result, Smoke is 32nd in the standings, nine points away from the 30th position he needs to achieve to become Chase-eligible. In other words, Stewart is all but a lock to compete for a fourth title in NASCAR's 10-race playoff. "I thought with two or three (laps) to go he pretty much had it, but he made a couple mistakes and allowed us to get pretty close," Hamlin said. "And then we just both wheel-hopped into 7, and I just let off my wheel-hop a little bit so I could get to his rear bumper and get him out of the groove just a touch. "It was perfectly executed, but I was going through the esses knowing that I needed to get the biggest gap that I could going into (Turn) 11, and when he was two back or so going into 11, I just ... I didn't run a low enough line in Turn 11 from wheel-hopping in Turn 7. I got the rears hot, wheel-hopped it a little bit again, got out of line, and obviously gave him the inside line." Third-place finisher Joey Logano was trailing the action into the final corner, hoping Hamlin and Stewart would take each other out. "Going into Turn 11, I was 100 percent sure that Denny was not going to win just by watching it, and we were right there on the cusp of trying to sneak one by," Logano said. Having opened up the inside lane in Turn 11, Hamlin shared Logano's sense of inevitability. "Once I knew he had position, and we had a wall on the other side of us, then I knew, pretty good chance, that we were going to go in the wall," Hamlin said. "I don't think he was going to leave it to chance, a drag race coming off Turn 11. We definitely had a car that should have won, but we were on the bad end of the deal." Had Stewart and Bugarewicz not chosen the perfect time to make a pit stop, however, Stewart almost certainly would not have won the race. With NASCAR officials scanning the track after reports of debris between Turns 6 and 7, Stewart and his crew chief decided to gamble and bring the car to the pits on Lap 86. NASCAR called the caution a lap later, and when all the rest of the contending cars pitted under yellow on Lap 88, Stewart inherited a lead he would hold -- with the exception of Hamlin's brief interlude from Turns 7 to 11 -- for the rest of the race. "It was just a chance that we took, a chance to get a win," Bugarewicz said. Coors Light Pole Award winner Carl Edwards -- who led 24 laps -- finished fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr ., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch . Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch completed the top 10. Harvick retained the series lead by 35 points over second-place Kurt Busch . Road-racing expert AJ Allmendinger led 20 laps in the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet and finished 14th. His team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire on its final pit stop, knocking him from contention. Home-state driver Kyle Larson spent much of the day in the top five, but fell from the hunt with a pit-road speeding penalty in a Lap 70 stop. He finished 12th. Notes: Clint Bowyer , a winner at Sonoma in 2012, was sidelined after completing just five laps by an electrical issue that filled the cockpit of his No. 15 Chevrolet with smoke. "Smoke is never good in the cockpit and it stinks. Hell, I couldn't breathe," said Bowyer, who finished last in the 40-car field. … Former NASCAR Next driver Dylan Lupton finished 35th in his Sprint Cup debut as the last driver on the lead lap. … Sunday before the race, Toyota -- the race co-sponsor and the track's official vehicle -- announced a three-year extension of its partnership with Sonoma Raceway. The deal continues a sponsorship that has been in place since 2007. … The series' next race is scheduled Saturday at Daytona International Speedway , which will host the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). Contributing: Staff reports
Hamlin's No. 11 done in by Turn 11 at Sonoma
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SONOMA, Calif. -- Denny Hamlin emerged from his car on pit road red-faced after Tony Stewart bumped him out of the way on the last lap en route to a dramatic win in Sunday's Toyota - Save Mart 350 . But Hamlin wasn't angry about getting roughed up by the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. He was just hot from a sunny, 91-degree day in wine country. And after walking around the back of his No. 11 Toyota to survey the damage, Hamlin removed his hat, wiped his brow and started to talk. This was as close as Hamlin had ever come to tasting a road-course victory, so disappointment -- maybe even anger -- would have been an understandable response, but instead he accepted the way the last lap played out. WATCH: Hamlin blames second-place finish on poor execution "He (Stewart) made mistakes that allowed me to get there and get position, and then I made a mistake at the end to give up the lead in the last corner," Hamlin said. "Just one of those deals. I'd like to be on the winning end of this, but unfortunately we're on the bad end." The mistakes Hamlin referenced came in Turns 7 and 11, the best places to pass on the 1.99-mile road course throughout the day. Hamlin said Stewart wheel-hopped in Turn 7 on the final two laps to open the door for the No. 11 car to get close and then move ahead on the final lap. But Hamlin came into Turn 11 too high, allowing Stewart to move underneath, push aside Hamlin and drive away for the win. "My biggest problem all day is I wasn't very good on the second half of the track," Hamlin said. "I thought my car was very good up until Turn 7, and then down the hill in 11 we just weren't very fast for whatever reason. It's a problem I've had here for 11 years." RELATED: See the final lap battle " Relive the day in photos Coming into Sunday's race, Hamlin had produced only one other top-five finish (2009), and entered with an average finish of 21.7 in 20 career Sprint Cup road-course races. None of that mattered, though, Sunday as Hamlin led the most laps with 33 (of 110) and was in position to get his first road-course win. A caution on Lap 94 set up what turned out to be the final restart on Lap 97, and Stewart and Hamlin were 1-2, respectively, when the green flag dropped. Stewart and Martin Truex Jr ., who was third at the time, got clean restarts on the inside line, while Hamlin didn't fare as well on the outside line. Hamlin dropped into third place, and according to him, that played a factor in the final outcome. "We got a bad (restart), but Tony got a real good one and the inside line got a good start," Hamlin said. "And that allowed Martin to get by me and I burned up way too much of my tires getting back around him." But nothing was guaranteed for Stewart, and when Hamlin pulled ahead on the final lap, it looked as if it might be Denny's day and not Tony's. Both were battling for the win and wheel-hopped into Turn 7 on the final lap, perhaps sensing the urgency to get a big win. "I didn't run a low enough line in Turn 11 from wheel-hopping in Turn 7," Hamlin said. "I got the rears hot, wheel-hopped it a bit again, got out of line, and obviously gave him the inside line. "Once I knew he had position and we had a wall on the other side of us, that I knew, pretty good chance that we were going to go in the wall," Hamlin said. "I don't think he was going to leave it to chance, a drag race coming off Turn 11." Afterward, Hamlin went up to Stewart's car and put his head in the window, and Stewart admitted afterward he thought maybe he was going to have to fight. But instead, Hamlin said, "I'm so damn proud of you."
Watch: Live post-race inspection on Wednesday
RELATED: Watch live stream here " Inside look on official NASCAR inspection From 8-11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, NASCAR.com will live stream the post-race inspection process. The three-hour look takes you behind the scenes as NASCAR officials inspect NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicles following Sunday's Toyota - Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. The cars being inspected this week are: the No. 14 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart (winner of Sunday's race) and the No. 11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin (runner-up in Sunday's race). For more information on what the inspection process entails, click here .
Sonoma strategy simple: Just win, baby
RELATED: Big fantasy week at Sonoma -- get our advice SAN FRANCISCO -- Looking out over a sunny and scenic San Francisco Bay -- Alcatraz Island in the foreground and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance -- reigning Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin lunched with media members on Thursday ahead of Sunday's Toyota / Save Mart 350 at nearby Sonoma Raceway. It's the first of two road course NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the season and the challenging 1.99-mile, 12-turn Northern California track has crowned seven different race winners in the last seven years. Kasey Kahne (2009), Jimmie Johnson (2010), Clint Bowyer (2012) and Carl Edwards (2014) are on that list. Martin Truex Jr . (2013) and Kurt Busch (2011) are also among the recent victors. And who could forget Kyle Busch 's triumphant win here last year -- his first victory since returning from severe leg injuries after missing the first 11 races of the year. He went on to win three of the next four races after Sonoma , including three in a row, to ensure his place in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason field, and he ultimately hoisted his first championship trophy. With a new Chase format that rewards regular-season winners with a position in the 16-driver, 10-race playoff format, the emphasis on winning has never been greater. It also has created a unique set of circumstances where early-season winners feel they can use other races to test new ideas and feel out nuances to their car that may pay out in the fall playoffs. But because there is no road course in the 10-race Chase, this week's stop at Sonoma Raceway is a unique offering on the schedule. And Hamlin -- who has yet to win on a road course -- says the lack of a road course event in the Chase does affect the approach this weekend. "There really isn't any experimenting here," Hamlin said. "Unless someone in the road-course department has come up with a different setup and is like, 'Let's try this,' you're really not coming with an experimental car or anything like that. This is what you've got. "This is a big event, we take a lot of pride in running really well out here in Sonoma . It's a long way to come just to go through any motions and pack up on plane and go home. I get as frustrated here as anywhere when I don't run well and I'm as proud, and have my chest out when I do run well. It's a big race for us personally and for team members. It'd be a trophy I'd love to have." WATCH: Hamlin previews race while driving through city The other side of it is that for drivers who have excelled on road courses, the Sonoma race -- and the Watkins Glen event in August -- stand as two prime opportunities to earn a Chase playoff spot. Jamie McMurray , who has four top-five finishes in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson -- who won Daytona's 24-hour sports car race in 2015 -- consider these two tracks to be potential difference-makers. They both are still looking for a win this season. McMurray has won three pole positions at Sonoma , but his best showing was a runner-up back in 2004. His only other top-five finish (fourth place) came two years ago. Larson has two top-five starts at Sonoma , but his best Cup finish is 15th here last year. Who could forget AJ Allmendinger 's dramatic and emotional victory at Watkins Glen in 2014? The California native won the pole at Sonoma last year -- and started on the outside pole in 2014 -- but ended up in 37th place both times. His best Sonoma showing is seventh in 2009. "There's 10 of us (2016 race winners) with nothing to lose, and we're being super aggressive right now," said Hamlin, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Toyota . "Then the other 30, this is their opportunity to punch their ticket in to the Chase and they are getting more aggressive. "No one is looking at points at Sonoma . They're out here to win. It's the only type of course I haven't won on, except in the XFINITY Series. It used to be I'd come to the road-course races and finish in the top 10 pretty easily. Now it's just a battle."
Zipadelli: Stewart win 'unbelievable,' huge for SHR
RELATED: Recap all of Stewart's wins Greg Zipadelli sat high atop Tony Stewart 's pit box, nervously watching his long-time friend and teammate work the field over the final laps of Sunday's Toyota - Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Zipadelli spent 10 years as Stewart's crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing , and together they won 33 races and a pair of Sprint Cup championships. Now, he is the vice president of competition at Stewart's own Stewart-Haas Racing team. As he watched Stewart lead the field in the closing laps, then get passed by Denny Hamlin midway through the last lap and then see Stewart dramatically re-take the lead in the final corner, Zipadelli was visibly balancing that deep and long friendship with Stewart with his genuine excitement for the organization's success. When it was over, it was time to exhale and reflect -- and be genuinely happy. After three years of Stewart's off-track challenges, including a serious back injury the three-time champ suffered in January, this victory was as emotional as it was validating. "Personally, it's just unbelievable to me he did it," Zipadelli said while watching Stewart take photos in Sonoma 's Victory Lane. "I'm just so proud of him and his effort, especially in the last three to four weeks. You've seen him turn a corner with his efforts, his attitude, learning these cars and running up front. "I've been telling these guys forever: He'll turn it on like a switch and you'll sit back and go, 'What in the hell?' It just happens. I've seen it for 18 years. Hopefully this is the switch and he'll have a good, strong run the rest of his career." RELATED: Stewart in his own words post-victory Stewart is coming off his first back-to-back, top-10 runs since 2014 with a seventh-place finish at Michigan in the previous race. He now has that required victory for an automatic position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, but is still nine points out of the necessary top-30 points position as the series heads to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). But Stewart – who missed the first eight races this year recovering from that back injury suffered in an off-season all-terrain vehicle accident -- has until the final race of the regular season Sept. 10 at Richmond (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to get into the top 30 in points. Zipadelli couldn't be more encouraged. "I'm really proud of this group," Zipadelli said. "[Stewart's crew chief] Mike [Bugarewicz] has done a great job this year keeping this group together and slowly picking away at it, unloading with race cars with more speed, learning what Tony wants. "They got a little bit behind, but played the pit calls right. We had a bad pit stop, we took it away from him and he went back and got it back for us. "We think about [Stewart winning] every day, we talk about it. It's huge for our company having three cars most likely going into the Chase. "It's a big hats-off to all the guys back at Stewart-Haas, building these cars and allowing us to race. They're back there grinding sun up to sun down. We've got a lot going on with our company and they haven't taken their eye off the ball, so I couldn't be prouder of our people." RELATED: Rookie crew chief Bugarewicz reflects on Stewart's win