NASCAR IN SONOMA

This year marks the 25th NASCAR Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup race at Sears Point/Infineon/Sonoma Raceway. Here's a look at the first 24.

1989 Banquet Frozen Foods 300

Sears Point opened in 1968, but it took 21 years before the first NASCAR Winston Cup race was contested on the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course. Ricky Rudd led the final 53 laps of the 74-lap, 300-kilometer event for the victory. He wrapped up his triumph on Lap 71 when he pushed Rusty Wallace, who was attempting to pass, off the course at Turn 7. Wallace went into the dirt, but got back on track to finish second.

1990 Banquet Frozen Foods 300

Rusty Wallace took the lead from Ricky Rudd with 15 laps remaining and went on to win under caution. Wallace's victory was his fifth in seven road-course events (Watkins Glen and Riverside were the other NASCAR road venues of that era).

1991 Banquet Frozen Foods 300

Ricky Rudd crossed the finish line first, but Davey Allison was declared the winner after Rudd was assessed a five-second penalty 21/2 hours after the race. Rudd had taken the lead from Allison after bumping him from behind at Turn 11 on Lap 73 of the 74-lap race. Allison spun, but recovered to follow Rudd across the finish line 4.5 seconds behind.

1992 Save Mart 300


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Ernie Irvan was black-flagged at the start, but came back to pass 41 cars for the victory. Irvan, a Salinas native, started second on the grid, but crossed the starting line ahead of pole winner Ricky Rudd at the green flag. Irvan was assessed a stop-and-go penalty. When he rejoined the race, he was 42nd.

1993 Save Mart 300

In a one-lap shootout, Geoffrey Bodine beat Ernie Irvan by 0.63 seconds. The race came down to a final-lap restart after the fifth caution of the day. Bodine celebrated his triumph with a reverse victory lap in honor of 1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, who was killed in a plane crash April 1.

1994 Save Mart 300

In a victory that was certainly easier than his first in Sonoma, Ernie Irvan became the first two-time winner of this event. He led 68 of the 74 laps and beat Geoffrey Bodine by 9.56 seconds.

1995 Save Mart 300

Dale Earnhardt won on a road course for the first time, passing Mark Martin on Lap 73 when Martin's car apparently slipped on some oil on the track. Earnhardt had been winless in 35 previous road races.

1996 Save Mart 300

Rusty Wallace won here for the second time, passing Jeff Gordon on the restart on Lap 69. After the race, the roof of Wallace's Ford Thunderbird was found to be 3/16ths of an inch lower than the required 51 inches. NASCAR suspected that the discrepancy might have been the result of damage suffered during the race. Wallace's team was fined $25,000 but his victory stood.

1997 Save Mart 300

Mark Martin led 69 of the 74 laps and held off Jeff Gordon for his first Winston Cup victory since Oct. 8, 1995 in Charlotte. It also marked a breakthrough of sorts in Sonoma. Martin had finished second in 1990, 1995 and 1996, and third in 1992.

1998 Save Mart/Kragen 350

The track was modified with the addition of "The Chute," a short straightaway that took the drivers from Turn 4 to Turn 7, bypassing the big infield curve (Turns 5 and 6) known as "The Carousel." That cut the NASCAR course from 2.52 miles to 1.949. To compensate, the number of laps was increased from 74 to 112. The race distance increased from 300 kilometers to 350. Vallejo native Jeff Gordon dueled Bobby Hamilton over the final 10 laps for the victory.

1999 Save Mart/Kragen 350

Jeff Gordon, battling flu, allergies and laryngitis, became the first driver to win consecutive races at Sonoma. Gordon was aided by a red flag late in the race. That gave him the chance to drink some water and regain some strength for the final three laps.

2000 Save Mart/Kragen 350

Jeff Gordon made it three in a row in Sonoma, beating Sterling Marlin by 4.101 seconds. Gordon ran the risk of running out of fuel, but kept the pedal to the metal nonetheless.

2001 Dodge/Save Mart 350

Tony Stewart passed NASCAR part-timer Robby Gordon, a road-course specialist, with 11 laps to go for the victory. Stewart made the pass while Gordon was dealing with the lapped car of rookie Kevin Harvick. The length of the track was increased from 1.949 miles to 1.99 after a slight modification at "The Chute" -- the addition of Turn 4A.

2002 Dodge/Save Mart 350

Leader Jerry Nadeau suffered a rear-end gear failure with two laps remaining, handing the victory to Ricky Rudd at the newly renamed Infineon Raceway. Nadeau finished 34th.

2003 Dodge/Save Mart 350

Taking advantage of the NASCAR rule that allowed drivers to race to the flagstand on the lap when a yellow flag comes out, Robby Gordon made a key pass of Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick and eventually beat Jeff Gordon. Robby Gordon's move, while legal, was controversial because of a so-called "gentlemen's agreement" among drivers that they would not race each other to the flagstand under yellow.

2004 Dodge/Save Mart 350

Jeff Gordon led a race-record 92 of 110 laps on his way to his fourth Sonoma victory. Gordon saved fuel during late caution periods by turning off his engine and coasting on the downhill portions of the track.

2005 Dodge/Save Mart 350

Despite losing fourth gear late in the race, Tony Stewart won here for the second time, beating Ricky Rudd. Stewart wasn't the only driver to suffer from transmission trouble. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon and Kyle Busch were plagued by gearbox problems.

2006 Dodge/Save Mart 350

One day after announcing his engagement, Jeff Gordon won for the fifth time in Sonoma. The victory ended a 19-race winless streak for Gordon and a three-race road winning streak for Tony Stewart.

2007 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Road course ace Juan Pablo Montoya scored the first NASCAR Nextel Cup triumph of his career. Because of Montoya's extensive road racing experience -- he won the 1999 CART/Champ Car championship and seven Formula One races -- he was expected to be a contender entering the weekend. But not many thought he could recover from a 32nd qualifying position. Previously, no driver had ever won at Infineon from a starting position worse than 13th (Davey Allison in 1991).

2008 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Kyle Busch, driving in only his seventh Cup road-course race, won the first green-white-checkered finish at Sonoma. Busch, who led the final 42 laps and 78 overall, beat David Gilliland by 1.716 seconds and Jeff Gordon came home third. He did this despite starting 30th.

2009 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Kasey Kahne won on the road for the first time, holding off Tony Stewart. The race marked the debut of double-file restarts on a road course. Kahne was particularly good, holding off Stewart on the final four restarts with the final one coming with two laps remaining.

2010 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Jimmie Johnson got a gift from Marcos Ambrose, which resulted in the first road-course vicotry of his career. Johnson inherited the lead from Ambrose, an Australian road-course specialist, with five laps to go when Ambrose, trying to save fuel during a late caution, turned off his engine. When Ambrose reached the uphill portion of the track going into Turn 2, he couldn't get the engine refired. As a result, he fell behind several other drivers as his car came to a stop. "To see the mistake happen as it did was totally off the wall, " Johnson said. "I don't know if I've ever seen that eliminate a guy from winning a race."

2011 Toyota/Save Mart 350

On a day highlighted by lead changes and crashes, Kurt Busch stayed out of trouble and beat out Jeff Gordon to give Penske Racing its first victory in Sonoma since 1996. The biggest battle on the track featured Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers. On Lap 38, Stewart thought Vickers was blocking him, so he spun Vickers in Turn 11. On Lap 87, Vickers got his revenge, putting Stewart atop the tire barrier in Turn 11.

2012 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Clint Bowyer became the sixth consecutive driver to win his first Cup road race at Sonoma, holding off Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch in a green-white-checkered finish. The race was remarkably clean with a record-low two cautions. The first 81 laps were run under green, also a record. "It felt like a genuine gentleman's road race today," Busch said.

-- DARRYL MATSUDA