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Roseville race teams seek cool runnings in Sonoma

The road course presents a different battle than ovals for cars and drivers
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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They sure look like the same cars — same No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet driven by reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, same No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevy shoed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., same No. 24 Rainbow Warrior driven by Northern California hero Jeff Gordon.

But they aren’t. The stock cars that are arriving at Sonoma Raceway for this weekend’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 aren’t the cars fans saw last weekend in Michigan. And the cars that take on the road course in Sonoma won’t be the same cars next weekend in Kentucky.

It’s the same way this week at Bill McAnally Racing in Roseville, where cars driven by Eric Holmes and Cameron Hayley are being prepared for Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Pick-N-Pull Racing to Stop Hunger 200.

Sonoma, formerly known as Infineon Raceway and, before that, Sears Point, is one of two road courses on the Sprint Cup circuit and one of four in Pro Series West this year. Sonoma has 11 turns over 1.99 miles and is unique even from the other road courses in that it has hills.

“It being a road course, we symmetrically set up the car; we try to square it up,” McAnally said Monday at the shop.

There are changes in everything from the transmission and rear end to the suspension: different upper and lower A arms, a tight steering box so the driver gets a quick return coming out of the turns, the biggest brakes money can buy for a stock car, a big sway bar.

“I’ve driven a car that was way too under-sprung on a road course, and you’re spending so much time rolling back and over and rebounding from the last corner you’re not getting your car set up for the next one,” McAnally said.

One of the most important changes to a road-course car is keeping it — and the driver — cool.

The brakes are used constantly. The transmission takes a beating with all the shifting, and so does the driver, who’s doing all that shifting while cranking the wheel left and right.

“On a circle track, you just have it in fourth (gear),” McAnally said.

For the road course, the cars will have extra ducts and fans on the rear end, transmission, brakes and, yes, the drivers. Holmes and Hayley will have air conditioning units in their racers.

“It’s important to get as much fresh air to everything to cool it off,” McAnally said. “It’s always a hot time (in Sonoma).”

McAnally to be inducted into West Coast Hall of Fame

Bill McAnally will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame during a ceremony Thursday night in Napa.

McAnally, owner of Bill McAnally Racing in Roseville and a former champion driver, will become the youngest living inductee.

BMR has 49 victories in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, second all-time to Jack McCoy’s 54. BMR’s five series championships — three by Eric Holmes and one each by Brendan Gaughan and Sean Woodside — also is second to Ray Elder’s six.

“It’s going to be quite an honor,” McAnally said.

~ Bill Poindexter

NASCAR IN SONOMA

Friday’s schedule: K&N Pro Series West practice, 8:30-9:30 a.m., 10-11 a.m.; Sprint Cup practice, noon-1:30 p.m.; Pro Series West qualifying, 1:50 p.m.; Sprint Cup qualifying, 3:40 p.m.

Saturday’s schedule: Sprint Cup practice, 9:30-10:15 a.m., 10:45-noon; Pro Series West Pick-N-Pull Racing to Stop Hunger 200, 12:45 p.m.; Legends race, 3:15 p.m.

Sunday’s schedule: Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350, noon.

Tickets: Visit www.racesonoma.com.