While NASCAR never releases figures on ticket sales, estimates of the spectator count at the annual Sprint Cup event at Sonoma Raceway usually hover around 100,000.
If that figure is even roughly accurate, then NASCAR produces the biggest sporting event in the Bay Area, dwarfing sold-out Raiders’ games (63,000), Niners’ games at Candlestick (70,000) or at the new Levi’s stadium in Santa Clara, which will seat up to 75,000 spectators for major events.
That also means that every June there is a traffic bottleneck near Sonoma Raceway during NASCAR weekend, especially along two-lane stretches of Highways 121 and 37 at Sears Point. But while race traffic can be a headache for motorists traveling between Highway 101 and Wine Country, or east to Vallejo, over the years a number of mitigating steps have incrementally improved the situation and raceway officials continue to search for more ways to relieve the pressure of too many vehicles in too small a space.
To that end, the raceway and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) unveiled new plans on Monday to further mitigate race-day traffic during Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.
A primary focus this year will be to educate non-race attendees about alternative routes in and out of the Napa and Sonoma valleys. In past years, said raceway officials, up to 85 percent of drivers passing the raceway on Highways 37 and 121 during peak entry and exit times are not attending the event. When combined with race traffic, the results can bring hours of congestion for all drivers.