Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Sonoma Brings Increased Action, Good and Bad Times

Back in the mid-1990s, I really looked forward to NASCAR making the yearly haul out to Sonoma Raceway for 300 kilometers around the 2.52-mile road course. I thought that the race was too short at the time. So did Papyrus. When then-Sears Point Raceway was included in the NASCAR Racing Track Pack in 1995 (note: this was an expansion pack for the original NASCAR Racing PC game that added Sonoma, Rockingham, Richmond, Dover, Charlotte, Pocono and North Wilkesboro), Papyrus incorrectly made the full race length 90 laps instead of 74. Perhaps David Kaemmer and the rest of the chaps were onto something.

Now, they’re racing 90 laps for real on the long course. Unlike two years ago, you had a more competitive event.

Sunday brought the NASCAR Cup Series to Sonoma Raceway for what was supposed to be 227 miles of racing. It ended up being 232 and Kyle Larson was the class of the field all day. I keep forgetting that he’s actually won the Rolex 24 at Daytona overall previously (2015).

Since Sunday was FOX Sports’ last Cup points race broadcast of the season (already?), they made a series of predictions about the playoffs that are nearly three months away. The general opinion is that the field is nearly set now. Points-wise after the race, it’s even more so now that Chris Buescher (in 14th, the last driver in on points) has a full race on Matt DiBenedetto.

The primary piece before the race was following Tyler Reddick on a visit to his hometown of Corning, Calif., which is a little bit closer to Redding than Sacramento. It’s a small town of 7600 or so. Reddick took viewers to a local Mexican restaurant and a general store in Flournoy, approximately seven miles west of Corning. We also saw Reddick at the track where he got his start, Cycleland Speedway in Oroville.

Had a really cool visitor at the kart track today! Tyler Reddick stopped by to chat for a while and jumped back behind…

Posted by Cycleland Speedway – Chico Ca on Friday, June 4, 2021

You might recognize the venue if you saw NBCSN’s Racing Roots: Kyle Larson a couple of years ago. Larson got his start there as well.

Viewers also saw an interview that Kaitlyn Vincie conducted with Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Hailie Deegan and Brehanna Daniels about their perspectives in breaking into NASCAR as women. As you can imagine, it’s no easy piece, even for those people that could be viewed as having advantages. In Miller’s case, she’s the daughter of a multiple-time champion and a former racer in her own right in late models. However, she still had to deal with jerks telling her to get out even though she was working there.

Daniels talked about how she’s constantly having to prove herself as a tire changer. Even though she has a fair amount of experience going over the wall now, it still seems like a lot of people think of her as the new kid on the block, while other crewmembers don’t necessarily have to deal with the cold shoulder treatment.

Deegan’s time was focused on how she uses social media to build her brand, but also to find additional backing for herself and her team (in this case, David Gilliland Racing). If you’re active on social media (Instagram, Twitter, etc.), you’re probably aware of Deegan’s reach. As of this writing, she has 1,050,582 followers on Instagram, 122,000 on Twitter (she actually got suspended from there briefly after she turned 18 because she apparently lied about her age years ago to get a Twitter page before she was old enough), 522,541 followers on Facebook and over 2.8 million on TikTok.

Deegan has the ability to monetize her social media presence, making her into some kind of marketing star in an era where getting the money to race is difficult. However, looking at the discussion surrounding Daniels and Miller, it seemed like Deegan’s segment didn’t belong. It almost looked like Deegan’s struggles are minimal as compared to her compatriots. I feel like there was more to this piece that got cut that I would have liked to see.

Prior to the race Sunday, I saw a YouTube video that is part of our former Frontstretch colleague Brock Beard’s Rise of the Field Fillers series. He created a two-hour piece about the life and career of Carl Long. In there, I found something interesting.

Long is more than willing to talk when given the opportunity. In an interview with Beard back in January, he stated that he pitched FOX Sports (and likely NBC Sports) to have them sponsor a “RoofClaim Rundown” to give some of the smaller teams additional exposure on the TV broadcasts. He equated it to some of the rundowns that MRN Radio does.

Unfortunately, this didn’t go anywhere, which probably really hurt knowing that so many of the races last year ran without fans and the TV broadcasts were truly the only real way to get your product out there. As for Beard’s series, I do recommend checking it out. It’s an interesting watch. When it comes to racing, Beard is sort of like Maude Lebowski’s doctor friend. He’s a good man, and thorough.

As compared to 2019, the weather was about the same, but teams were running with a lot less downforce and softer tires. Also, the track surface was two years older. As you can see in this Instagram post from Jeff Gordon, it’s not exactly smooth.

That led to a slippery race on the twisty road course. Yes, Larson kicked butt, but it was still exciting to watch. Passing was up significantly from 2019, and there was plenty of action to go around.

In regards to Long’s point from above, a lot of the action we saw Sunday was toward the front of the field, or of frontrunners having to charge back up after pit stops. It could have been far more inclusive.

Tires were big on Sunday. Wear was rather substantial. Teams would pull tires off that were delaminated. Larson was showing cords at one point. Kyle Busch had to make an unscheduled stop due to a vibration that nearly killed his race (the late cautions saved his butt). Locking tires is just one reason why that would happen, but I’m pretty sure that there are more. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. apparently cut a tire to cause his crash, but I can’t say that it was a cut for sure. What I can say for sure is that he hit an unprotected concrete wall. That’s a concern at Sonoma that I’ve written about in the past.

See also
Exposed Concrete: Racecar Drivers' Kryptonite Thrives at Sonoma

The FOX Drone Cam got a lot more usage on Sunday than in previous weeks because it allows cameras to go to where they otherwise might not be able to. The result was a series of nice shots. Except for one. I’m not sure what happened, but on lap 82, the Drone Cam zoomed so far on turn 11 that you couldn’t make out what was going on.

When that was happening, Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell were coming together down there, damaging Bowman’s car even more than it already was (I’m still shocked that Bowman finished ninth despite being a bit of a battering ram at times).

Post-race coverage was relatively brief since the race ran long. Viewers got interviews with the top three finishers (Larson, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr.) and a check of the points before leaving Sonoma.

Overall, there were good and bad parts of the broadcast. The on-track action was rough and tumble at times with some good racing. There were good moments on the broadcasts, and some bad ones. I don’t know what was going on during the “Put It Out” segment. It’s like Clint Bowyer wrote the script wrong or something. That’s why he teased Thomas Meseraull falling off of his midget twice instead of teasing the huge go-kart crash. For the sake of the discussion, here’s an alternate shot of Meseraull’s spill.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is very busy in motorsport. Texas Motor Speedway is hosting a quadruple header with the All-Star Race and All-Star Open for Cup teams, while both Truck and Xfinity teams race on Saturday. Meanwhile, INDYCAR has a doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on the undercard. The FIA World Endurance Championship returns to action for an eight-hour race at Portimao in Portugal. Then, we have the prime-time debut of the Camping World SRX Series. Oh boy.

Given this crazy busy schedule of racing for next weekend, I knew going in that there wouldn’t be much room to talk about SRX in this column. However, there will be absolutely no critiquing of their broadcasts here this year. Why, you might ask? It would be a conflict of interest because our fearless leader, Tom Bowles, is involved with the SRX broadcasts for CBS. As a result, I cannot comment on them, other than to tell you when and where they’re airing (8 p.m. Saturday night on CBS). Since it’s a prime-time broadcast, the likelihood of it being pre-empted by local affiliates is extremely low, given the time of year.

I’m not a fan of this move, and as of last week, did have plans to critique them at some point. However, I’m not trying to get Bowles fired.

That said, we will have critiques of the action next weekend from Texas in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex this week, I’ll have a piece about Saturday’s B&L Transport 170 in the Newsletter for Wednesday. In addition, I stumbled upon something quite interesting. Stafford Motor Speedway posted a 141-minute documentary this week to its YouTube channel entitled 13: The Life & Career of Ted Christopher. I’m going to watch that and write about it.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below. Even though I can’t always respond, I do read your comments. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons. If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

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About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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Was particularly struck by two things during the Sonoma broadcast:

First, even though Fox showed a brief montage of historical Sonoma photos that included Larry McReynolds and mentioned his name, Mike Joy didn’t bother to mention that McReynolds was the winning crew chief in the very first Cup race at Sonoma (won by Ricky Rudd). Also not mentioned was that that very first Sonoma race was Ray Evernham’s very first Cup crew chief race.

Second, speaking of Larry McReynolds, it was quite bizarre that he kept insisting that certain teams had to pit (and then they didn’t and he was completely baffled). Don’t know if this is a sign that McReynolds no longer has a firm grasp of what today’s crew chiefs strategies are and what the cars are capable of or if he just needs to get out of the studio and back in the pits to talk to people.

JW Farmer

I have to say the Brock Beard video is about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. In 1993, my Dad bought me an Andy Belmont #59 car (I am sure he was in ARCA). The colors struck my eyes so much that when I raced in karts, I used the #59 (with a different sponsor, for legal reasons I cannot say) and I used almost the same colors. In fact, as a teenager, when I held my 100+ seasons of NASCAR racing (15 races a year with 1:64 cars) I WAS the driver of the #59 FDP Brakes Ford. Now, to this day, it is my favorite number as it is also the year my Mom was born in. I have a tattoo of the stylized #59 from that car. I love Long’s attitude and this piece. Every time I read Frontstretch pieces (each morning to be honest) I get something new and interesting. Your team is the epitomy of quality NASCAR content and thank you for jogging my memories and giving me a smile to start my day.

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