SONOMA, Calif. – Despite three NASCAR K&N Pro Series wins on road courses, a victory at Sonoma Raceway is at the top of the to-do list for Will Rodgers after he narrowly missed out to Kevin Harvick a year ago.
Rodgers took the first step towards checking that box on Friday afternoon, when he led the way in practice for the Carneros 200 in commanding fashion.
The Hawaii native and NASCAR Next class member stormed to the fastest time during the 80-minute session, posting a best lap of 79.436 seconds (90.186 mph) around the 1.99-mile, 12-turn Northern California road course with the No. 7 KELLY Benefit Strategies Ford.
Rodgers is seeking his first K&N West victory. His three prior wins have all been in K&N East competition.
“I think our odds to win this weekend are pretty good, given our strong performance here last year,” said Rodgers, who was eight tenths of a second faster than anyone else in the 27-car field.
“We’re here for redemption, for sure. (Finishing) second was good in many ways last year, but I didn’t take home the trophy and that’s what I’m here for this year,” Rodgers added. I think our motivation showed in our performance in practice … we were good right out of the box and put down a good lap that stayed there the entire session, which was great. We worked on a few things to improve the car on the long run, but overall I’m really happy with where we’re at and excited for qualifying and the race.”
Five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series interlopers are competing in this weekend’s K&N West event at Sonoma, and all of them ended the day inside the top 10 on the speed charts.
The highest of those was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Suarez, competing this weekend for DGR-CROSLEY and turning the second-fastest lap of 80.252 seconds (89.269 mph) in the No. 54 Toyota.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron – driving for Bill McAnally Racing and Jefferson Pitts, respectively – were third and fourth overall. K&N West veteran and former Sonoma winner David Mayhew completed the top five.
Cole Rouse was sixth-quick ahead of Stewart Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, the second DGR-CROSLEY Toyota of Erik Jones, Jim Inglebright and Wisconsin young gun Derek Kraus.
Championship leader Derek Thorn was a disappointing 12th on the board at the end of Friday practice.
Qualifying for the Carneros 200 rolls off at 10:15 a.m. local time on Saturday.