The Stewart-Haas Racing camp are obviously the favorites heading into Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). They have won seven of the first 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races in 2018 including the last one two weeks ago in Michigan. They’d finish 1-2-3 that day. Plus, they’ve also reached victory lane in the last two races in Sonoma.
But, I have my eye on a sleeper per say for this weekend’s race. No, I’m not talking about AJ Allmendinger. I’m talking about Kasey Kahne. While he’s taken a step back this season, this is a track where he has a chance to show that the underfunded team at Leavine Family Racing can contend with the big boys. Sonoma isn’t a place where we turn a ton of speed. It’s a technical track but not one where there’s a large speed differential between Kahne’s No. 95 Chevrolet and the big teams like SHR. This one comes down to some luck, a lot of road racing skill and a great team around you. LFR has a great group of people and Kahne has been very good lately in Sonoma.
While the two road course tracks (Sonoma and Watkins Glen) rank in the bottom four of statistical tracks for Kahne, his recent stats at Sonoma say otherwise. He won this race in 2009. His previous five finishes in Sonoma prior to that trip to victory lane was 31st, 41st, 31st, 23rd and 33rd respectively. But, since the win in ’09, Kahne has finishes of fourth, 20th, 14th, sixth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 24th respectively.
Zero top 20’s in his first five starts at Sonoma and eight in the nine races since. He has four top 10’s in his last five wine country starts as well. While he hasn’t had a top 15 finish all year with a best result of 17th three times (Texas, Talladega and Dover), I suspect Kahne will get a season best finish on Sunday and even challenge for the win if a little bit of luck is involved. How crazy would that be and how much would that shake up the playoff grid?