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NASCAR at Sonoma Raceway thrills thousands of fans

SONOMA, Calif. - It was an action-packed weekend in wine country. Thousands of fans packed the stands at Sonoma Raceway to take in the sights and sounds of NASCAR. The weekend culminated with the main event - the Toyota / Save Mart 350 on Sunday.

KTVU's Betty Yu strapped in and suited up for a full-power-paced car ride on the course - consisting of tight twists and turns. Sonoma's 11-turn, 1.99-mile course is one of the only road courses in the NASCAR circuit.

Driver John Hunter Nemechek said training was key to maintaining endurance during the 110-lap race on Sunday.

"A lot of training, a lot of training goes into it from an endurance standpoint. We train a lot during the week - a lot of running, cycling, just trying to prep for the long duration," Hunter said. "Once you get in the groove, the adrenaline starts pumping."

Off the course, thousands of spectators enjoyed the fan zone, which included special photo opportunities with one-off cars, live music, food, an air show, driver appearances including Bubba Wallace, and a chance to get autographs from racing legends like Richard Petty.

There was even a chance to try your hand at ax throwing.

The fans soaked in the sun and all the action before drivers hit the pavement. For many, it was a family affair.

"First, the views are amazing and second, it is fun to watch the road course. I think it entertains the little kid a little bit more, a lot more turns than just going left," said Chris Peers of Rocklin, comparing the road course to an oval course. He brought his young son for the second year in a row.

Martin Morales of Modesto also brought his son Alexander.

"He started following NASCAR and from then on, he wanted to come to the races. So we're doing Sonoma, we're doing Las Vegas, and soon, probably Phoenix," Martin said.

The best part of the day for seven-time attendee Josiah Dowell of Sacramento was the race itself.

"Just the speeds and how fast they go," he said.

New this year was fresh asphalt. Sonoma Raceway repaved the track for the first time in about two decades.

"It can mean a lot of grip, a lot of fast racing, it's a great road course. It's historic, the drivers love coming out here, the teams love coming out here," said Sonoma Raceway general manager Brian Flynn.