SONOMA, Calif. - After nearly two years of silence, the roar of engines will return to Sonoma Raceway this weekend. NASCAR is back, the Toyota Savemart 350 is scheduled for Sunday, and fans are already showing up.
After a pause last year for the coronaivurs pandemic, racing is back at Sonoma Raceway, crews spent the day preparing the track, and getting ready for the weekend. "This is what Sonoma Raceway is built for, having a major event like this," said Jen Imbimbo Sonoma Raceway spokesperson. "We are so thrilled to have race fans back and welcome back NASCAR to Northern California."
This weekend look different than years past, the raceway following safety guidelines so fans will be limited. So instead of 47,000 fans about 15,600 will be allowed in at any given time. "We are still social distance seating, which means people will be seated in pods of two to six, and there'll be roughly up to 18 seats around each pod," said Imbimbo. "So, it'll look a bit like a checkerboard, is what they say."
They might not be NASCAR drivers, but race enthusiasts got their chance to cruise the challenging two mile course in their own cars. "Yeah, it was fun, I got to get it out of second gear twice, on this straight away before you hit turn seven and the carousel," said race fan Ray Jonathans. 'I got to tell you, the carousel is my favorite thing on this race track."
And all that fun for a good cause, the racers dropping more than $200 each, raising about $29,000 for Sonoma County youth groups. "It's for the children," said Jonathans. "It's all about Children's Speedway Charities of Sonoma County, and we love the kids and this is what we do. So, I'm gong to go write a big fat check again."
Some fans are already in the stands, making a weekend of it. Camping at the racetrack is a long-standing tradition, that looks a little different this year. "Usually it's so crowded over there already, every camp site's full," said race fan Troy Texeira. "But, this year we're pretty well spaced apart. It's kind of nice."
Those fans already looking forward to a weekend of racing. "Sunday's hard to top, I like Saturdays because you can do more around here, check things out, you don't have the pressure of nobody, whereas Sunday everybody seems to be in a hurry to do everything," said Texeira.
Tickets are sold out for Sunday's Toyota Savemart 350 NASCAR Cup Series Race, but at last check there were still tickets available for Saturday's race events.