Kevin Harvick – Kevin Harvick is an elite performer at Sonoma who’ll be tough to beat. On Sunday I would look for him to finish in the top five and be a serious threat to win. He’s the defending champion and since he’s been in the #4 car he’s excelled over long runs, that attribute is what separates the contenders from the pretenders. Over the last three Sonoma races he’s been very impressive. Since 2015 he has the best driver rating, the best average finish (3.7), is tied for the best average running position (9.0) and has finished in the top 6 every race. Last year, Harvick had a great car and raced his way to victory lane. Where he really shined was being good over long runs. In addition to winning he earned the best driver rating, had a 6th place average running position and led 24 laps. In 2016 he had a strong showing. When the checkered flag waved he finished 6th, earned the 6th best driver rating and had a 10th place average running position. In 2015 he was even more competitive. In that race he finished 4th and earned the 4th best driver rating. In 2014 at Sonoma nobody was better than Kevin Harvick. Over a long run his car was in a league of it’s own. Prior to the first caution coming out he had a 12 second lead over 2nd! Unfortunately his race wasn’t incident free. With how the cautions fell he was cycled back to mid-pack and while he was working his way back to the front, Clint Bowyer spun and Harvick got some pretty severe looking damage from contact. When the checkered flag waved finished 20th, earned the 7th best driver rating and led 23 laps. In three of the four Sonoma races prior to that Harvick finished in the top ten.
Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. should be on your short list of favorites at Sonoma. Last year he may of very well had the best car, but when you look at his 37th place finish you would never know it. In the race he won Stage #1, led a race high 25 laps and earned the 4th best driver rating. Late in the race with about 35 laps to go while he was running in 2nd he started reporting engine problems, and then about 10 laps later his race was over. If he didn’t have problems I thought he was clearly going to be a factor to win, and at worst be top three good. In 2016 he had a very strong car that was one of the fastest over long runs. Late in the race he was a serious factor. When the checkered flag waved he earned the best driver rating, had a 4th place average running position and finished 5th. In 2015 he had a short race and on lap 29 shortly after a restart he crashed into a tire barrier in turn 8. Prior to that restart he typically ran around 13th. In the four Sonoma races prior to that he had the 4th best driver rating, a 10.5 average running position, an 11.5 average finish and led 66 laps. In 2014 he ran well and was top ten strong but lost a few positions late and finished 15th. In 2013 Martin Truex Jr. raced his way to victory lane. Additionally, he had a 6th place average running position, led 51 laps and earned the best driver rating by 30 points.
Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer will be a contender to win at Sonoma. He’s a past champion who’s been an exceptionally strong performer. Last year at road courses, Clint Bowyer ranked as one of the best. Between the combined events he had a 3.5 average finish and was one of two drivers who swept the top five. Sonoma ranks as one of Bowyer’s best tracks. It’s home to his best top five (58%) and top ten (75%) finish percentages. At Sonoma, since 2007 minus 2016 and 2010, he’s finished in the top ten every race and has a 4.6 average finish. Last year he had a great car and finished runner-up. When it was time for him to be up front he was, and he closed out strongly. In 2016 when he was in uncompetitive equipment he finished dead last after completing just 5 laps before he had an electrical fire that marked the end of his race. In the five Sonoma races prior to that he finished in the top ten every race, had a 4.6 average finish and an 8.4 average running position. In 2015 Bower finished 3rd and earned the 4th best driver rating. In the three Sonoma races prior to that he finished 5th, 1st, and 4th.