Racing fans and NASCAR drivers are gearing up for what will be the biggest sporting event with spectators in the Bay Area since the pandemic began, the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
The NASCAR Cup Series race, taking place at 1 p.m. Sunday, has been held every year at the North Bay road course since 2007, except for last year, when it was canceled like many events because of the coronavirus pandemic. NASCAR has been racing at the venue since 1989.
For Sonoma Raceway general manager Jill Gregory, it will be her first Toyota/Save Mart 350. She said there will be a limited number of fans, but still more than 15,000 allowed at the track.
Several health protocols are in place, from required masks to contactless and cashless transactions to sanitizing stations, Gregory said.
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"Fan safety, community safety. We don’t want to put any kind of undo stress on our local community, but if we do it safely, I think everybody will be in a good spot," she said. "I’m feeling really good about it."
For many racing fans, it's been a long time coming. Richard Tillman of Redding says after missing it for a year, being back at Sonoma makes it even more exciting. "I’m stoked. I can’t wait for Sunday’s race," he said.
Because of NASCAR's COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s race will be a one-day event, no practice or qualifying. The drivers will just show up Sunday and race 90 laps around the 12-turn, 2.52-mile Sonoma Raceway road course.
Martin Truex Jr. won the last two Toyota/Save Mart 350 races in 2018 and 2019.