Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: A weekend of road course racing, including Road America

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Dave von Falkenstein
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NOTE: I realized Sunday that I mistakenly said the Formula One race at Azerbaijan was the maiden race. It, of course, was not as the series first raced there last season. Whoops!

There's a full plate of road racing this weekend, including IndyCar's return to the great state of Wisconsin.

NASCAR turns right

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series holds the first of two road course races Sunday with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in California. The now-retired Tony Stewart won last year on the 1.99-mile course for the final win of his career.

Kyle Busch, still searching for his first win of the season, has two wins in Sonoma. Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. have also recorded wins there.

Points leader Kyle Larson, who won last Sunday in Michigan for his second win of the season, finished 12th in Sonoma last year. In his six previous road course starts in NASCAR, his highest finish was fourth at Watkins Glen in 2014.

Truex, who won at Sonoma in 2013, sits five points behind Larson and has five-straight top-six finishes, including a win at Kansas in the last five races. Besides his finish of 35th at Talladega last month, Truex has not finished outside the top ten since Martinsville on April 2.

Coverage of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 starts at 2 p.m. Sunday on Fox Sports 1.

IndyCar at Road America

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Elkhart Lake's Road America for the Kohler Grand Prix on Sunday. The series returned to 4.048-mile road course last year for the first time since 2007 with record-breaking crowds.

Will Power, the defending race winner, won the last race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 10. Power has two wins this season but still sits fifth in points. The winless Scott Dixon leads the point standings, but only 40 points separate the top five drivers.

With Sebastien Bourdais still out with an injury following his crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Power is the only former winner in the field. Tony Kanaan, still looking for his first win since 2014, finished second last year while Graham Rahal, who swept the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader a few weeks ago, finished third.

I'll be making the journey up to the race on Sunday with my dad and son. It looks like there could be some rain showers, but with a high temperature around 70 degrees, it'll be a welcome change from last year's race where temperatures were in the 90s.

Coverage of the Kohler Grand Prix starts at noon Sunday on NBC Sports Network.

F1 in Baku

Formula One will hold the maiden Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday. The race will be run on the 3.729-mile Baku City Circuit in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. If, like me, you have no idea where Azerbaijan is, it is south of Russia, east of Armenia and north of Iran.

Lewis Hamilton, who won the last race in Canada, sits twelve points behind leader Sebastian Vettel. Both drivers have won three races this season, while Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas is the only other driver to have won a race.

The battle between Vettel and Hamilton, the sport's two heavyweights, is much more exciting than the last few seasons where the battle was between Mercedes teammates Hamilton and the now-retired Nico Rosberg. Between the two of them, Vettel and Hamilton have 101 F1 victories and seven world championships.

Coverage of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix starts at 7:30 a.m. Sunday on NBC Sports Network.

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at dvonfalkenstein@gazettextra.com.

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