Five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will pull double duty at Sonoma Raceway, earning extra seat time around the 1.99-mile, 12-turn road course.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman, along with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez as well as Aric Almirola, are entered to compete in the Saturday afternoon NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race.
Byron will drive for Jefferson Pitts Racing. The HMS rookie won the K&N East championship in 2015 with four wins. Saturday will be his third K&N West race.
“I ran the K&N race there three years ago and finished fifth. The biggest thing was just trying to save your tires over the course of the race — you only had one set of tires, so it really teaches you some discipline there,” said Byron. “It’s a good opportunity to get your rhythm down. Sonoma is obviously a pretty physical track, so you’ve got to be prepared for that when you’re running both races.
“But, it’s more track time and it gives me a better chance to be closer when I get to the Cup race, because that’s probably going to be one of the hardest races of the year for me.”
Bowman will compete for Bill McAnally Racing in what will also be his third ever K&N West race. He finished sixth in points in 2011 in the K&N East Series.
Jones has the least K&N experience of his fellow competitors as this weekend will be the first time he’s competed in the series. Suarez, meanwhile, has the most experience with 46 starts between the K&N East and West divisions. He has three career East wins. Jones and Suarez will drive for DGR-Crosley.
“I’m very excited to get to Sonoma this week,” said Suarez. “It’s a challenging place, but that’s what makes it so fun, is that you have to really hit your marks every turn of every lap.
“I’m more confident going there this year now that I have been there before. I’ll spend some time in the simulator before we fly out and then I’m also running the K&N race Saturday to get more track time. I think both of those are going to help and hopefully we’ll be able to improve on our race last year and move into the top 10 or top five this weekend.”
Almirola will drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in his second K&N start. In 2008, he won in his first start, a K&N East race at Dover.
Kevin Harvick ran the K&N West race last year and won (pictured, leading). He then swept by the weekend by winning the Cup Series race.