Pit Note No. 4: Sonoma Raceway to bring back the Carousel
Sonoma Raceway is bringing back the Carousel for its Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in 2019.
Sonoma Raceway president and general manager Steve Page and Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith made the announcement Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"We've spent a lot of time, as we do every year, looking at what we can do to make our event, our race great for the drivers, great for the fans," Page said. "The configuration of the track is something we've had lots of input over the years. We are going back and converting our Cup race to the traditional two-and-a-half mile version of the track and reintroducing one of the signature corners in racing, which is the Carousel."
The track will expand from its current 1.99-mile length to the traditional 2.52-mile course. The first nine Cup Series races held at Sonoma were run on the 2.52-mile course before a reconfiguration to the shorter circuit.
"Steve and I talked about it, and we thought this would be really cool," Smith said. "People like the throwback now, and this is really appropriate with the 50th anniversary of Sonoma Raceway to bring back a classic and to bring back the signature Carousel turn."
Fox Sports analyst Jeff Gordon won five times at Sonoma, but never on the 2.52-mile version.
"I really enjoyed that course, and I was looking forward to maybe one day getting a victory on that course," Gordon said. "I'm excited, and I think this is a great move. It adds a completely different element to the technical skills that it's going to take from the drivers. It's a much more demanding track.
"I only wish I had a chance to win on it in that form."
To which Page responded, "You know, we can probably find you a car."
Page said the switch to the longer track will likely continue, though that's not set in stone.
"We've not made a final decision as to what we're going to do long term," Page said. "But I would say unless it doesn't work out as we intend, then we will continue to use the Carousel."
TA America Honors Hauler Drivers
TA America announced the winners of their annual NASCAR hauler driver awards on Saturday. The top three drivers were honored and presented trophies and checks during the ceremony.
Tom McKrimmon of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team won the TA America Challenge for the fourth time - by only one point, to collect a trophy and the $25,000 prize. Ken Pitcher of the No. 19 JGR team was second, followed by Brenden Greene of the No. 18 JGR team.
"I have to especially thank my wife and family who have made a lot of sacrifices through the last 25 years, McKrimmon said. "To TA America, thank you for supporting this and the drivers. I can't tell you what this means to everybody and how hard people work. We are looking forward to next year. Joe Gibbs Racing is going to try and do this again. I cherish this and it means more to me than you know."
This season marked the 25th year of the truck driver challenge that started in 1993. There are six events planned for the 2019 TA America Challenge.