CORNELIUS, N.C. — More than 2,750 miles separate Michael Waltrip Racing’s race shop and Sonoma Raceway. It will take the NASCAR Sprint Cup team’s two race haulers at least 40 hours to drive non-stop from North Carolina to reach the gates of the California road course.
But, when they arrive, it will feel like home.
MWR’s greatest Sprint Cup success has come at the 2.52-mile, 12-turn track. Since 2012, MWR drivers have competed in seven Sonoma races visiting victory lane twice and notching four top-five finishes. A MWR car has led 145 of 332 laps (44 percent) at Sonoma since 2012.
There remains one major complaint about the track that sits in the heart of California wine country.
“There’s only one race a year there. We want more,” laughed driver David Ragan who hopes to add to MWR’s success in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 – the first of the season’s two road races.
“Ever since I joined MWR in May I’ve heard talk about Sonoma. As a competitor, I’ve watched their cars there the last several years and I’ve seen how good they are. That gives you a lot of confidence going into the weekend. You can’t wait to get to the track. We are making gains each weekend we work together and I think we can take another step forward this weekend.”
Ragan knows the easiest way to gain a spot in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup is winning a race. The next two races are prime opportunities for the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota.
This weekend’s road course race coupled with the July 5 restrictor plate race in Daytona — Ragan owns two career victories in restrictor plate races — could be tracks where Ragan can punch a ticket into the 16-driver, 10-race playoff.
“MWR has won at Sonoma and I have won at Daytona. Hopefully we can combine those histories and get us a victory at either place. I think this weekend will be one of the best races of the 2015 season. You will probably see a lot of different strategies play out with the goal to get track position for the end of the race and race for the win.
“Daytona will be Daytona. It will be wild and anything can and usually does happen. This is a fun part of the year.”
- TESTING: Ragan and the No. 55 team tested at Richmond International Raceway June 16-17.
- No. 55 CREW CHIEF BRIAN PATTIE: Pattie, 40, joined MWR in 2012 when it formed the No. 15 team-leading driver Clint Bowyer to three victories and a second-place finish in the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The Zephyrhills, Fla., native began crew chief duties in the XFINITY Series for Joe Nemechek’s NEMCO Motorsports in 1997 before moving to a similar role at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in 2004. In May 2008, he moved to the Sprint Cup Series with driver Juan Montoya. The duo earned a berth in the 2009 Chase and a win at Watkins Glen in 2010. Pattie owns four Sprint Cup and 10 XFINITY Series victories as a crew chief. The father of four is an avid golfer and supporter of the Florida State Seminoles. In June 2015, MWR paired Pattie with David Ragan on its No. 55 team.
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- 55 CREW:
· RACE FOR RESEARCH: David and wife Jacquelyn Ragan are again serving as the honorary chairman for the LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation's second Annual Race for Research held July 6-8. The three-day road rally includes teams who spend three days in decaled passenger cars navigating through NASCAR country stopping along the way at designated "pit stops," answering scavenger hunt questions, meeting NASCAR legends and even taking laps on famous speedways. During "pit stops," as the participants complete scavenger hunt tasks, they get a chance to look behind the scenes of famous speedways and meet some of Ragan's racing friends. The race begins at Darlington Raceway on July 6 and winds its way through the Carolinas ending July 8 at Michael Waltrip Racing and the GoPro Motorplex. To sign up a team, make a donation to Ragan’s team or another team, or to learn more route details, please visit the event site at http://www.lumindraceforresearch.org
Stops will include:
Darlington Raceway & Museum Charlotte Motor Speedway
Childress Winery Stewart Haas Racing
Sam Bass JR Motorsports
Performance Instruction & Training US Legends Cars
Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Institute
Michael Waltrip Racing GoPro Motorplex
Friday, June 26
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 2
6:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FOX Sports 2
Saturday, June 27
2 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1
Sunday, June 28
2 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay - Sonoma, FOX Sports 1
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350, FOX Sports 1
Midnight, NASCAR Victory Lane, FOX Sports 1