The NASCAR Winston Cup Series made its inaugural visit to wine country for the Banquet Frozen Foods 300 30 years ago today.
Stock car racing had been part of then-Sears Point Raceway’s annual schedule since its first season. Ray Elder won the very first Pacific Coast Late Model race on the road course on June 8, 1969. Throughout the 1970s and mid-1980s, the road course hosted annual Winston West and Southwest Tour events.
Following the 1988 season, NASCAR needed a new California venue for its premier racing series after the closure of Riverside International Raceway, and officials opted to move Riverside’s traditional June race to Sonoma.
Rusty Wallace claimed the pole for the inaugural event on the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, but Ricky Rudd would go on to lead 64 of the 71 laps in Kenny Bernstein’s Quaker State Buick. He took the lead for the final time on lap 22 and seemed to have victory in hand until a late-race caution flag set up a dramatic four-lap dash for the checkered flag.
Wallace and Rudd made contact at least three times during the closing laps, but Rudd held on to win by 1.1 seconds. The win marked Rudd’s only victory in the 1989 season, and he would come back to claim his second Sonoma victory in 2002.
Sonoma Raceway 50th Anniversary:
Sonoma Raceway will celebrate 50 years of racing history and memories throughout the 2019 race season. Honoring the raceway’s history and memorable moments will be at the heart of the raceway’s efforts, including celebrations to mark significant milestones in the raceway’s history, signature celebrations at the raceway’s major events featuring drivers and legends, and plenty of throwback images and memorabilia.
“Sonoma Raceway’s legacy over the last half century covers the spectrum from iconic professional stars to thousands of amateur enthusiast racers who have turned laps on our road course or accelerated down the quarter-mile,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “We look forward to celebrating with all of them in the coming year, and honoring our incredible history.”
Race fans are invited to get in on the fun by sharing their personal memories, stories and pictures from events at Sonoma Raceway at www.sonomaraceway.com/50 or on social media using the hashtag #Race50noma.
Sonoma Raceway PR