CORNELIUS, N.C. — The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Sonoma, Calif. this weekend in what might be the social highlight of the season. The scenery, nice hotels and night life makes the Napa Valley one of the sport’s favorite places to visit.
The No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine team at Michael Waltrip Racing did an informal and extremely unscientific survey of its 12 favorite places and activities on the road.
No. 55’s FAVORITE STOPS & RECOMMENDATIONS TRAVELING THE NASCAR CIRCUIT
1. Las Vegas
2. Sonoma, Calif. (Drive Highway 1 to Bodega Bay, dinner in Sausalito)
3. Chicago (Rush Street, Cubs, Michigan Ave & Lake Shore Drive)
4. Phoenix (Hiking Camelback Mountain and dinner at Mastro’s City Hall Restaurant)
5. Homestead-Miami (Anywhere on South Beach)
6. Talladega (Infield Boulevard)
7. Daytona, Fla. (Mai Thai's, Ocean Deck and Boothill Tavern)
8. Fort Worth (Pete's Piano Bar)
9. Concord, N.H. (Lobster at Makris, field trip to Boston, Lake Winnipesaukee)
10. Watkins Glen, N.Y. (Hike Ithaca Gorges)
11. Indianapolis (St. Elmo Steakhouse, Howl at the Moon & Slippery Noodle)
12. Kansas City (Power & Light District)
Mike “Nook” McCarville, No. 55 shock specialist: “We don't get a ton of time but when we do we like having fun. My favorite is Daytona where I can ride my Harley and we seem to have more down time there than any other place. It’s kind of ‘to each his own’ when we do get free time. Some guys like to ride motorcycles, others like a nice dinner, some go watch sports.”
Ty Norris, MWR’s executive vice president business development: “The toughest part of our job is also the best part of our job – the travel. Since we are already committed to be on the road and away from our families, the best thing to do is explore and enjoy the diverse regions we visit. Racing is priority number one … always will be. But it is just as important to clear your head and expand your mind by enjoying what so many of these small towns and big cities have to offer. People are always amazed that I know my way around just about every city or town in the U.S., except south Charlotte!”
Last weekend Brian Vickers finished sixth in the GTE-Am class in the 80th annual 24 Hours of Le Mans. This weekend he’ll drive Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 RK Motors Toyota on the Sonoma road course in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Sunday marks the third of eight races Vickers plans to run in the No. 55 in 2012 with Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip driving in the remaining races. Vickers finished fifth at Bristol and 18th at Martinsville in his only two 2012 appearances. He’ll also drive in both New Hampshire races as well as Watkins Glen, Bristol and Martinsville in 2012.
VICKERS: “I’m really looking to getting back into the No. 55 Toyota at Sonoma — especially after being away for so long, but it has been great to continue to build a relationship and run with (owner) Rob Kauffman. The No. 55 team has been running very well with Mark and I hope I can continue that momentum. They were SO close at Pocono. Rodney and the guys gave me a great car at the VIR test. We ran very competitive laps times against some guys that are considered the road race experts. So I am pretty pumped about that. I’ve had some success at Sonoma too. The last being the pole in 2009 and leading a bunch of laps before getting caught up in an incident.
“The road racing laps and experience I have gained at Le Mans will hopefully help me in the Cup Series next week. All of that with the fact that it is indeed Sonoma, a great place to relax after a long day at the track — and it hopefully will be a successful weekend.”