(KTXL) – Sunday marks the return of NASCAR to Sonoma Raceway for the first time in two years.
“I was bummed we didn’t get to go there last year but excited that we get to go back now,” said driver Matt DiBenedetto
“A lot of NASCAR fans in California, and we need to be out there racing in front of them,” driver Martin Truex Jr. told FOX40.
NASCAR has not raced at all in the state of California since 2019.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been there. No practice, no qualifying and the rules are different than when we raced there in 2019,” Truex Jr. said. “So, it’s going to be interesting to see how out to lunch some guys are at the start of the race.”
Truex Jr. would know; he has won the last 2 races at Sonoma.
But despite the recent success for his team, Truex Jr. believes the layoff and NASCAR’s modified schedule of no practice and qualifying could be a wild card for Sunday’s race.
“I think of all the places we’ve had no practice so far, this is going to be the most difficult,” he explained. “Not only because this is a road course and it’s so technical, there’s a lot of blind corners. It’s kind of like a rhythm race track, and you’re not going to have that rhythm.”
Grass Valley native DiBenedetto could really use some of that rhythm come Sunday. He and his team have been struggling so far this season.
“We’re kind of off right now. The road courses have actually been a bit of a challenge for us as far as our car speed,” DiBenedetto exlpained. “So, at places I like, yet obviously you’re only as good as what you’re riding in and what you’ve got.”
“Every team has strengths and weaknesses, and I feel like the road courses have been a little bit of a weakness, so I’ve been kind of excited to get to some of these places, on a track that I like, like Sonoma, to try and keep on improving our program,” he continued.
A win would do a lot for DiBenedetto.
For starters, it would be his first in the NASCAR Cup Series.
It could also point his team back in the right direction, toward NASCAR’s playoffs, like they did last season.
“Our time will come and we’ll keep improving our program. We’ve got to get better, find more speed, in order to catch up to some of those guys. But, my guys are good and we’ll do it,” DiBenedetto said.
Sunday’s race will allow 33% of normal capacity and is already sold out.