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John Hunter Nemechek
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Here’s the key fact about Saturday’s DoorDash 250 up front: this is the first-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the 1.99-mile road course.
Hence, to state the obvious, no drivers in the field have experience in an Xfinity Series car on this track.
Ostensibly, that should give veteran Cup drivers, who have raced at Sonoma for years, a distinct advantage over their inexperienced Xfinity counterparts, some of whom have driven at Sonoma in the Truck Series.
But it’s also fair to point out how different the Xfinity cars are from the current Next Gen cars in the Cup Series. So the advantage of familiarity with the equipment goes to the Xfinity regulars.
There are seven full-time Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s race, including the two most recent winners at the track: Daniel Suarez (2022) and Kyle Larson (2021). But we’re not betting against the Xfinity veterans.
If you happen to favor either Kyle Larson or AJ Allmendinger, as the oddsmakers do, you’ll have to accept stingy prices for each driver—+225 for Larson and +275 for Allmendinger, both via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Allmendinger is the acknowledged king of road courses in the NASCAR garage, and he’s likely to win on any track that features right turns as well as left—except Sonoma.
The 1.99-mile road course in wine country has given AJ fits over the years. In 11 NASCAR Cup Series starts at the highly technical track, Allmendinger has but two top 10s and no top fives. His average finish there is 23.5, a far cry from his performance at other road courses.
Accordingly, we’re saying “no” to AJ this weekend.
The case against Larson is harder to make. He won the 2021 Cup race at Sonoma and almost always shows excellent speed there.
But he’s making just his second start in an Xfinity car this season, and the Xfinity regulars have just completed their second road course race of the season at Portland.
That’s why we’re looking beyond the two favorites at Sonoma this week.
Xfinity Series veteran Justin Allgaier came tantalizingly close to fulfilling our prediction for last week’s Portland race.
He was in position to win, leading the field to an overtime restart when Parker Kligerman ran him wide into Turn 1 and opened the door for Cole Custer, who had taken the green flag in fifth place.
At the end of the two-lap overtime dash, Allgaier crossed the finish line in second place, just .142 seconds behind Custer.
Allgaier is an underrated Road course racer, as his +1400 price at DraftKings suggests. And in his last four Xfinity Series starts, he has finished third, second, first and second.
We like him to return to the top spot on the podium at Sonoma.
And speaking of Kligerman, we like him to beat Sammy Smith heads-up at -115. Kligerman was in the mix for the win at Portland. Smith wasn’t.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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