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More than a quarter of Sunday‘s field for the NASCAR race at Sonoma Raceway has never turned a lap in a Cup Series car around the 2.52-mile road course in California.
There are 37 drivers entered in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and 10 will be making their Sonoma debuts in NASCAR. Of those 10, six are full-time 2021 competitors. Then, of those six, only two are rookies, which makes their introductions a given since Sonoma is a Cup-only track, and the other four lost their chance in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of Sonoma‘s sole event.
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Take a look at all 10 drivers and their situations (alphabetically listed):
Anthony Alfredo — full time; rookie season with Front Row Motorsports.
Christopher Bell — second full-time season, now with Joe Gibbs Racing; no Sonoma race in 2020.
Chase Briscoe — full time; rookie season with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Cole Custer — second full-time season with Stewart-Haas Racing; no Sonoma race in 2020.
James Davison — second part-time season, now with Rick Ware Racing; never raced Sonoma.
Scott Heckert — making second career Cup Series start with Live Fast Motorsports; previous was not at Sonoma.
Quin Houff — second full-time season with StarCom Racing; no Sonoma race in 2020.
Tyler Reddick — second full-time season with Richard Childress Racing; no Sonoma race in 2020.
Ben Rhodes — making first career Cup Series start with Spire Motorsports.
Garrett Smithley — fourth part-time season, now with Rick Ware Racing; never raced Sonoma.
Alfredo, Bell, Briscoe, Custer, Houff and Reddick are the six full-time Cup Series drivers right now fighting for points and ultimately the championship. Even though Bell is the only one who has won a race this season (Daytona Road Course) and is therefore automatically locked into the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs, Reddick ranks the highest in the current points standings among his Sonoma first-timers. He‘s 13th. Bell is 15th.
Reddick is truly on a roll this season.
The No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet pilot has placed in the top 10 in eight of the 15 events down. Through last year‘s 36-race schedule, he had nine top-10 finishes total — so he‘s already on pace to set a career high. Also, the last time an RCR driver had at least eight top-10 results at this point was 2015 with Ryan Newman, who was in his 14th full-time season. Reddick is in just his second.
Reddick matched his career-best finish of second in the third event of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He was runner-up at Texas Motor Speedway last year in the 18th race of the season.
Two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas, Reddick won the Busch Pole Award, and it not only marked his first career pole but also Richard Childress Racing‘s first road-course pole since 1996 with Dale Earnhardt.
BetMGM has Reddick at 50-1 odds to win Sunday. Bell is a bit better at 25-1 odds, but he hasn‘t posted a top-10 run since Richmond Raceway in April — seven races ago. Reddick, meanwhile, is riding a three-race top-10 streak — and seven in the last nine — that includes a ninth-place showing at COTA.
So, based on overall consistency and recent performance, Reddick looks to be the favorite out of the 10 Sonoma newbies.
Semi-related and worth noting: There are also three new teams making their Sonoma debut — 23XI Racing with driver Bubba Wallace, Trackhouse Racing Team with Daniel Suarez and Live Fast Motorsports with Heckert. Wallace has two career Sonoma starts. Suarez has three.