Road-course racing could shake things up

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Finally, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup heads to a racetrack that could shake things up a bit.

The drivers and teams are coming off an off-weekend, and where better to jump back in than at Sonoma Raceway?

With any luck, we’ll see some new faces up front this weekend. 

Road courses tend to be a different animal than other tracks on the circuit, and it’s hard to pinpoint anyonae who absolutely dominates any of them, except maybe Jeff Gordon. He has five Sonoma wins and four wins at Watkins Glen, but he is no longer an active driver and I haven’t found an active driver with those sorts of stats in my research.

AJ Allmendinger is known to perform well on road courses and could possibly change things up a bit on Sunday. As a matter of fact, his 2014 win at Watkins Glen earned him a spot in the playoffs. He also has two pole awards — one at the Glen and one at Sonoma.

Or perhaps Jimmie Johnson will earn his second victory at Sonoma, although the odds don’t appear to be in his favor this season.

However, some of the top drivers right now are also good at road courses. 

Kyle Busch has two wins at Sonoma and also two wins at Watkins Glen. His brother, Kurt Busch, has only one victory at Sonoma but also holds 10 Top-5 finishes — the most of any active drivers on road-course tracks.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have one win each at Sonoma and the Glen, and Clint Bowyer has one win at Sonoma and has nine Top-5 finishes, as well as an average finish of 12.5.

If you’re hopeful none of those guys win this weekend, I hate to remind you that all of them have multiple wins this season and will be looking to rack up more. As a matter of fact, according to ESPN, Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch have won 86 percent of the past 22 non-restrictor plate races. The article also said this season has the fewest number of winners since 1996.

Even Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski has acknowledged what’s currently happening on track.

“Nobody has come in and replaced Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., Matt Kenseth — those are five really big talents that just haven’t been replaced,” Keselowski said.

Is that an insult to the younger generation? Well, only nine Cup wins came from the young guys — Kyle Larson with five wins, Austin Dillon with two, Chris Buescher with one and Ryan Blaney with one.

Keselowski went a little further to say that the top drivers this season are also in the best cars, which makes a huge difference.

But it’s also a question of whether the new guys are spending enough time in the XFINITY Series before moving on to the Cup. Too many of these young guys aren’t getting the time or stats they need to be ready to race in against the big boys in Cup, and it’s showing every weekend.

If you want to see if things shake up this weekend, you can catch racing at Sonoma Raceway Sunday at 2 p.m on FS1.

Jennifer Lowe is a NASCAR columnist. She lives in Ellisville.