The Toyota/Save Mart 350. NASCAR’s annual venture into California wine country and Sonoma Raceway. After the excitement the NASCAR entry in the 24 hour of Le Mans generated, it’s time to see how a Cup car handles the elevation and right- and left-turns of Sonoma. How are we playing this slate for DraftKings and FanDuel for NASCAR DFS? Who are the top drivers to play for the Toyota/Save Mart 350? With no stage breaks during the race, how does the strategy change for Sunday? Practice and Qualifying results for Sonoma, what do we make of them? All of this and the best NASCAR drivers to play for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 are in this week’s NASCAR DFS Playbook!

2023 Toyota/Save Mart 350 Track Layout

We’ve typically seen the same, 1.99-mile, 12-turn, layout for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 over the history of the event. They did switch things up a year or two ago to incorporate the Carousel portion of the track. That won’t be the case this year though. For 2023, Sonoma Raceway is going with the standard NASCAR layout that goes with the so-called Short Chute layout between Turn 4 and Turn 7. They feel there’s more chances for passing with that than the Carousel layout does. The other part of the layout that is tricky not only the hairpin Turn 11 but also the elevation change. The 160 feet of change per lap makes overshooting braking zones easier to do than we think.

NASCAR DFS Strategy For Sonoma

When we look below, it seems to be clear as to what a bit of the strategy is: get laps led and some PD. However, it’s going be a bit different this year for nabbing those stats given there’s no stage cautions, like we had at COTA. Earlier in the year we saw that drivers who started toward the front tended to stay there as they didn’t have the weird strategy choices of stages breaks to deal with. Will that be the case again at Sonoma? It’s entirely possible that the cars that are fastest enough to be up front will remain so throughout the race and dictate pit strategy rather than stage cautions doing that. However, there are several cars that messed up qualifying and should be major threats for PD upside.

On that note, if we look at the table below, we can see that moving up here is possible. Not only for six spots but also double-digits. We saw that last year with Austin Cindric, and others, who started outside the top-20 and moved up. Looking at the PTQ table below can also show us who might be in that spot this year. The stats in the table below come from the last five Sonoma races, all of which had stage cautions so take a few of them more cautiously than others. Which ones? Well, it appears, based on COTA, that the cars up front stand a chance to dominate the race in terms of laps led with others getting a handful based on pit cycles.

 RaceRaceRaceRaceRace 
 12345AVG
Positive Place Differential201820222220.4
Six+ Place Differential Spots11108131010.4
Double-Digit Place Differential635976
Double-Digit Fast Laps412222.2
20+ Laps Led312222
50+ Laps Led011100.6
100+ Laps Led000000
Lead Lap Finishers313324212326.4
Top-10 Finish %5456448%

This year, more so than others, we are likely to see tire fall off play a role in the race and shuffling the order because of the expected long runs in the race and the worn out surface, combined with a change in tire construction from Goodyear. The drivers who can manage tires better will last longer, later. That’s also why we’re looking at Green Flag Speed and Late-Run Speed this week as key indicators from previous road races as to who might be there at the end. I’ll make reference to those stats in the analysis for drivers and they played a role in the projections for this week.

NASCAR Practice and Qualifying Results at Sonoma

The following chart shows where drivers ran in qualifying compared to where they qualified. Keep in mind that the long-run speed at practice isn’t shown over as many laps as a typical oval race given the length of the lap at Sonoma.

DriverAvg. Prac to QualQual1-Lap5-Lap
Denny Hamlin-1111311
Tyler Reddick-5249
Michael McDowell-1353
Christopher Bell-1542216
AJ Allmendinger3532
Ty Gibbs-36107
Chris Buescher-47148
Martin Truex Jr5825
Daniel Suarez-11920 
Chase Elliott51074
Austin Dillon211810
Kyle Busch-5121518
Ricky Stenhouse Jr-213921
Alex Bowman3141112
Ross Chastain615126
Kyle Larson151611
Joey Logano0172113
Bubba Wallace-2181920
Corey LaJoie3191715
Aric Almirola-10203425
Kevin Harvick-7212827
Ryan Preece-6223124
Justin Haley17236 
Chase Briscoe3242419
Brad Keselowski9251814
William Byron-1262529
Ty Dillon3272326
Erik Jones-12829 
Josh Bilicki-42933 
Zane Smith4303023
Ryan Blaney15311617
Todd Gilliland8322722
Andy Lally1333628
Austin Cindric83426 
Grant Enfinger3353530
Harrison Burton43632 

DFS Points By Starting Spot for DraftKings and FanDuel

These charts are made by taking the results of the previous five races at Sonoma and compiling points based strictly on starting spot. They are meant to show more of the strategy for building lineups rather than what specific starting spot we’re looking to play this week.