The annual NASCAR stop at Sonoma (FS1, 3 p.m. ET) will be a bit different this year due to the track configuration.
Not since 1997 have the competitors raced the carousel portion of the track during a NASCAR cup event. This retro configuration will add another passing zone, and it will also add a higher degree of difficulty, which is likely be the source of more than one dust up.
In the last eight races at Sonoma, the average starting position for the eventual winner was 8.75. However, when examining the races that incorporated the carousel (pre-1998), the average starting spot of the winner was 5th place. There is little doubt that Sonoma is a highly technical course that typically takes a driver several years to make marked improvement. One such statistic to back this up is that in the last nine races at Sonoma, the best finish by any rookie driver is 16th.
When evaluating this race from a wagering perspective two major points of reference should be considered. The starting position should be a prime concern if looking to bet on a driver to win the race. Betting on a driver who is starting in the top 7 or 8 positions is a major advantage as the cars will need to get sorted out quickly to a single file formation. The track width that is needed to run double file is simply not built into Sonoma. This is compounded by the cloudless sunlight, and a track surface which is known for having very little relative grip.
Another point of consideration should be the past performances and experience level of the drivers at Sonoma. Racers such as Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch all have outstanding resumes on road courses in general, which translates well to Sonoma.
When handicapping this race and the changes for 2019, it is important to stick with what we have learned over many years. Sonoma is not likely to be the source for a breakthrough performance by a young series driver. With these points of reference in mind we are targeting a head-to-head driver matchup that appears to offer value for the bettor.
Aric Almirola (-110) over Daniel Hemric (-110)
Almirola has shown good speed all weekend. in addition to car control that has been equally strong. Further, he is at the point in his career when we often see a NASCAR driver become a solid road course racer. Hemric, while experienced, is one of the rookies of the series. It would take a monumental task for him to finish in the top 8. For these reasons and more, Almirola is the selection.
Our record this season in driver head to head matchup wagers is 28-13.