Sonoma Raceway restores Chute for NASCAR

So much for the longer course experiment.

After two races using the full track configuration featuring the Carousel, Sonoma Raceway has elected for NASCAR to revert to the pre-2019 track layout that bypasses the sector to form what is called the Chute.

The Carousel, located after turn four, is featured in Sonoma’s usual configuration that many other series such as the NTT IndyCar Series have used; with the Carousel, the track is 2.52 miles (4.056 km) long with twelve corners. Although NASCAR originally used it too when it began racing there in 1989, the track added the Chute which connects turns four and seven in 1998 for NASCAR events, shortening the distance to 1.949 mi (3.137 km). Turn four was tweaked three years later to accommodate the change, adjusting the track length up to 1.990 mi (3.203 km).

To celebrate the track’s fifty-year anniversary in 2019, NASCAR began reusing the Carousel course, resulting in the Chute only being used for track days and club events. While the change made for a longer track length, it received mixed reception from fans who felt it eliminated a passing zone.

“It will be more exciting for the fans just because those are a couple of wild corners with some new hairy passing zones,” commented defending Cup Series champion and Sonoma winner Kyle Larson. Martin Truex Jr. is the other driver to win on the Carousel layout in 2019 (the 2020 race was cancelled due to COVID-19). “Mistakes can be made in those corners when you’re bouncing over curves so the cars will be moving around a lot. It will be exciting. It will be pretty wild because you can go all the way to exit of Turn 4 on the other side of the curve and barely miss the wall.”

While the race distance for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 will remain at 350 km, the lap count will be increased from 90 to 110 laps. The Camping World Truck Series, who last raced at Sonoma in 1998, is also set to return to the California road course.

“Drivers and fans have missed the passing opportunities and close racing created by the Chute so we’ll be returning to that configuration for the NASCAR Cup Series and the return of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series,” stated NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller. “NASCAR has seen drama and incredible action at road course races, and we’re looking forward to even more intensity as the Next Gen race car débuts and the Chute returns at Sonoma.”

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