With much anticipation, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to the Sonoma Raceway road course for the first time since Boris Said raised a trophy in California wine country back in 1998.
The full-time Truck Series drivers are excited about the opportunity, and there’s a large group of Cup Series regulars entered in Saturday’s DoorDash 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), hoping to get some extra miles in to prepare for Sunday’s Cup Series race.
Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the championship lead heading into the weekend by 17 points over Chandler Smith. The top six drivers — also Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Stewart Friesen and Christian Eckes — are only separated by 34 points.
It’s essentially a home race for three-time 2022 winner, Californian Zane Smith, who turned 23 Thursday. He won the series’ only other road-course race this year at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. And his nine top-10 finishes in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford through the opening 11 races are tops in the series.
And he shows up this week energized by a solid Cup Series debut last week at World Wide Technology Raceway – where he finished 17th after starting 32nd in the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford, filling in for Chris Buescher who was out with COVID-19.
Smith can certainly expect tough competition from Rhodes, who also has a road-course win (Daytona Road Course, 2021) and is hoping to regain his title form after an up-and-down last month that includes three top 10s but also two finishes of 25th or worse in the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota.
Nemechek, who trails Rhodes by 22 points in the championship, is also a former road-course winner, taking a trophy at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Canada, back in 2016. He has five other top-five road-course finishes, including three runner-up showings – the most recent at COTA this spring. The driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota had a streak of seven top-10 finishes before an uncharacteristic crash and DNF at WWT Raceway last week.
Chandler Smith, 19, comes into the summer stretch with some positive momentum. The driver of the No. 18 KBM Toyota has top-10 finishes in the last four races and led 40 laps last week at WWT Raceway. He also finished fifth at COTA in his only road-course race in the series.
Alex Bowman, Harrison Burton, Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch headline a group of eight part-time drivers – also including former Truck Series champion Todd Bodine – who are slated to compete in the Truck Series race Saturday afternoon. Busch is a two-time Sonoma winner in the Cup Series.
The last four Truck Series winners at Sonoma — NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr., Dave Rezendes, Joe Ruttman and Boris Said — will serve as grand marshals for Saturday’s race.