NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger escorted Bay Area media members on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sonoma Raceway road course earlier this month, as he helped the track prepare for the upcoming Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Allmendinger, a native of San Jose in the South Bay, served as tour guide on board a classic cable car, escorting guests on a one-of-a-kind tour of the 10-turn road course. Along the route, the 2015 Sonoma Raceway pole sitter shared a driver's perspective of the challenging circuit and took the wraps off an exciting new addition to the facility.
With the flip of an oversized switch, Allmendinger fired up the raceway's brand-new 85-foot tall, four-sided LED scoring pylon above Turn 1 for the first time. The new pylon will provide real-time running order for up to 20 positions, dynamic race-related graphics and fan information. It is more than 26-feet taller than the old board and easily visible from almost every seating area around the road course.
"It was really fun to be here and light up this new pylon for the first time," said Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 Ralphs/Kingsford Professional Briquets Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing. "This is going to be a great addition for the fans. They're going to love seeing where their favorite driver is during the race, and the graphics are incredible."
Continuing on his route, Allmendinger helped refresh the paint on the course's signature "hairpin" at Turn 11 alongside Corky Caprara of United Striping, who has handled painting duties on the road course for 27 years. The two touched up the course's signature blue and gold berms, so colored at the suggestion of raceway President and General Manager Steve Page, who attended UC Berkeley.
After crossing the start/finish line, Allmendinger sampled two of Sonoma Raceway's new signature concession items: the Crab Cake Corn Dog and savory waffle sandwiches. He also enjoyed a taste of the Sonoma Valley wine that will be served to the Toyota/Save Mart 350 winner in the Champion's Goblet.
"Sonoma is a special race, for sure, and I'd love a chance to win this one," said Allmendinger. "We've been fast enough the last few years; we just haven't been in position to get it done. Winning here at my hometown track would be really special."
Allmendinger returns to Sonoma Raceway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' 28th annual visit to the Sonoma Valley, June 24-26.
Ten different winners have taken the checkered flag at the challenging road course over the past 11 years, and last year Kyle Busch kicked off his historic run to the Sprint Cup Series championship with his second Sonoma victory. For tickets or more information, call 800-870-7223 or visit www.sonomaraceway.com/nascar.