Be prepared to witness a version of a Sonoma race that you haven’t seen before. Or, if you’re a longtime NASCAR fan, a type of Sonoma race that you haven’t seen in over 20 years.
The Cup Series is racing the carousel portion of the track on Sunday for the first time since 1997. Since then, NASCAR’s top level had run a shortened version of the road course in Northern California.
But the longer version of the track is back for its 50th anniversary. Instead of being 1.99 miles with the chute that shortened the track between turns 4 and 7, the new (old) layout is 2.52 miles with the re-addition of the winding downhill section and ensuing straightaway to a hairpin corner.
Here’s what the last full-course Cup Series race in 1997 looked like.
And here’s a replay of last year’s race, won by Martin Truex Jr.
No current Cup Series driver was active in 1997, so the new (old) track will be a new wrinkle for everyone.
“I grew up on the West Coast, watched a lot of races at Sonoma Raceway that included the carousel, and I even did a driving school and learned how to drive that track as a teenager with the carousel,” Jimmie Johnson said this week in a statement. “Then I showed up on the NASCAR circuit and they didn’t have the carousel. So naturally, I am really excited that they are now opening that back up to us and we will be running through there this time around.”
Since the track is longer, the race will have fewer laps. Last year’s race had 110 laps. Sunday’s race will feature 90 laps but will be eight miles longer than it was in 2018. And the different race could be an opportunity to extend the parity that’s existed at the track in the 2000s. Truex and Kyle Busch are the only two-time Sonoma winners who will be in Sunday’s race.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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