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NASCAR picks a date for Sonoma Raceway return

The Sonoma Raceway, which saw nearly all of its 2020 schedule evaporate with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, may be getting back to some semblance of normalcy in 2021 as the sports economy continues to reopen.

NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, this week announced its schedule for 2021, which will include holding the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 6 at Sonoma Raceway. That date is earlier than in previous years, as the event has typically fallen on the third weekend in June.

“NASCAR in Sonoma is the perfect way to kick off summer, and we look forward to bringing all the color and excitement back to Wine Country next June,” said Sonoma Raceway President and General Manager Steve Page

The Toyota/Save Mart 350 has been a showcase event at the Sonoma County race track since 1989. The 2021 race will span 90 laps on the full 2.52-mile, 12-turn road course. It will be the climax of what is a three-day weekend of races at the 51-year-old raceway, formerly known as Sears Point and Infineon Raceway, near the intersection of State Route 37 and Highway 121.

When the pandemic hit in March, NASCAR canceled all its events throughout April, returning to live track action in mid-May at selected tracks within driving distance of Speedway’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, said Page.

“They were running the events without any overnight stays,” said Page. “They’d roll in on Sunday morning, and with no practice or trials run the race, than head back home.”

Whether or not there are spectators at NASCAR races this year depend on the local health conditions — some events held this summer had no spectators, some limited attendance. The same protocols may apply next year as well depending on local conditions.

Since mid-June, NASCAR has broadened its reach to include tracks outside the deep south. Last weekend’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was run before no spectators, in accordance with local health restrictions. It was won by Kurt Busch.

NASCAR competition usually begins in February and runs into November. Page said the schedule revisions just announced amount to “a major shake-up” for the stock car competition, with two tracks dropping off the schedule and two others stepping up.

Now that NASCAR has settled on its schedule, Page expects that NHRA will finalize its schedule as well so as not to compete with NASCAR’s hold on major media, such as FOX Sports and NBC. “Once the 900-pound gorilla decides where he’s going to sit, the other seats open up.”

Page said he expects the date for the NHRA races at the Raceway will be announced soon. “Absent something we don’t anticipate, we expect the Sonoma Division 7 Drag at the end July.”

For local and national race fans, the revival of NASCAR’s 2021 live action schedule is cause for a celebration – or at least a beer. The Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma will be the 16th event in NASCAR’s 36-race schedule for 2021.

Of particular interest for stock car racing fans is the re-introduction, after 50 years, of a dirt track for major competition racing. The Bristol Motor Speedway will transform its high-banked raceway into a dirt track for a NASCAR Cup Series race on March 28. It will be the first premier series race on dirt since 1970, at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Wasting no time, the Sonoma Raceway is taking reservations at the 50 Acres Campgroup and other on-site accommodations for camping during the scheduled NASCAR weekend even.

Deposits for tickets and camping for the 2021 Toyota/Save Mart 350 are now being accepted. All 2020 Toyota/Save Mart 350 ticketholders will be contacted by Sonoma Raceway regarding 2021 tickets in the coming weeks. For more information, visit SonomaRaceway.com or call 800-870-RACE (7223).

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