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ROAD WARRIORS: WHICH WINLESS DRIVER HAS THE BEST CHANCE TO LEAVE CALIFORNIA A WINNER?
The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing season has, for the most part, been a three-horse race – with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combining for 11 wins in the first 15 races. When they’re not winning, they’re running near the front with 11, 10 and nine top-five finishes, respectively.
The three have been by far the most consistent pilots in NASCAR’s premier series and it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. But this weekend’s road course race in northern California presents a different challenge – and thus, could provide a fresh face in victory lane on Sunday.
The Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is certainly a wild card race on a lengthy schedule that features 34 oval races and just two road course events. And while Truex Jr. (2013), Busch (’15) and Harvick (’17) will most likely be in contention again on Sunday, we offer our list of five winless drivers in 2018 that we think have the best chance to sip some wine on Sunday:
A.J. Allmendinger – What kind of list that involves a road course would be complete without the Dinger on it? It’s been some time since the road course specialist won on a non-oval circuit – Aug. 10, 2014 at Watkins Glen to be exact. But Allmendinger has a knack for these kinds of races and needs to be in consideration when the green flag flies Sunday afternoon.
Kurt Busch – With six top-10s, including five top-fives in his last seven starts at Sonoma, the elder Busch brother could be the favorite of the non-favorites to win on Sunday. Busch is a 2011 winner at Sonoma Raceway and has both a strong team in Stewart Haas Racing and the aggressive racing style that it will take to be a serious factor down the stretch on Sunday.
Jamie McMurray – No, you didn’t misread that. McMurray has actually been one of the most consistent drivers at Sonoma over the last decade and a half. More importantly, McMurray and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle Larson have started to find some speed in the new Chevy Camaro. A three-time pole sitter at Sonoma, McMurray just might be poised to finally end his 163-race winless streak.
Denny Hamlin – It’s been an up-and-down season so far for Hamlin, who has six top-fives and seven finishes outside the top 10. But Sonoma Raceway has been a good track for Hamlin, especially over the last couple years. In 2016 he looked like he’d play the spoiler to the retiring Tony Stewart only to give up the lead in the penultimate turn. Last year, Hamlin led 11 laps before fading to a fourth-place finish. He’s poised to finally pop the cork in victory lane.
Brad Keselowski – A three-time runner-up finisher at Watkins Glen, Keselowski knows his way around a road course. The 2012 Cup Series champion is coming off a third-place finish in 2017 at Sonoma, where he led 17 of 110 laps. Currently fourth in points – the only driver in the top six without a victory – Bad Brad has been good all season, and is likely the best bet to erase that goose egg in the 2018 win column.