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Drivers Weigh in on Sonoma Raceway’s New Turn 11 Wall

what do drivers think about Sonoma Raceway Turn 11 wall

Photo Credit: Brian Smith, TobyChristie.com

The big news heading into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 race weekend was the revelation on Friday that the 1.99-mile road course will feature a new track limits boundary in the hair-pin Turn 11.

On Friday, TobyChristie.com revealed that the tire packs, which have been in that area of the race track seemingly since the dawn of time, have been replaced by a “permanent” concrete wall.


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After drivers had the chance to walk the track on Friday before any on-track activity, the drivers all had input based on what they had seen. The consensus was that the new wall has essentially turned the hair-pin Turn 11 into a completely blind turn.

“It’s a little bit blind, but you’re kind of getting used to it and understanding the radius of how far I’ve got to turn the wheel to make the corner without hitting it,” Denny Hamlin explained. “I think there will definitely be a few that cut it too tight, and risk knocking a toe link out, but hopefully it’s not us.”

William Byron says spotters will play an even more important role in that section of the track than they have in year’s past due to the vision issues with the wall.

“It’ll definitely make it hard to see around that corner,” Byron explained. “Like, if somebody spun out in that corner, you’re going to have to really rely on your spotter because I feel like you won’t be able to see ahead of you as much as before.”

The other concern that drivers have is if there is a crash unfolding ahead of them in Turn 11, they won’t have the option of avoiding it by cutting to the inside of the rumble strip in Turn 11.

“I guess it’s going to probably make it a little more congested if there’s a crash,” Christopher Bell said. “You’re not going to have anywhere to go.”

While that’s a concern, Bell says he didn’t notice anything different with how he has to drive the track despite the wall being placed in Turn 11.

“But other than that, normal racing conditions. I didn’t notice a difference,” Bell explained.

While the track has called the barrier a permanent wall, it’s made up of sections of temporary concrete barriers. Alex Bowman doesn’t like the shape that the temporary barriers created.

“I don’t think we really have to drive it differently, I just think it’s odd the way it was pieced together, right? It’s very jagged,” Bowman explained. “A curved wall would have been nice.”

Not only is the wall jagged, but when the wall starts in Turn 11, cars have room to get their tires below the rumble strips. As the turn goes on, the area of runoff drastically diminishes, and towards the end of the Turn, the wall actually sits on the rumble strip.

Bowman can see how that may cause an issue in Sunday’s race.

“I could see if you get under somebody, it’s going to be really easy for them to force you down into that wall,” Bowman said. “Probably break a toe link pretty easy. Hopefully, we’re not in that situation.”

Will the wall in Turn 11 make any difference in Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway? That is to be determined. But the ARCA Menards Series West was able to conduct its race with no issues on Friday afternoon, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series ran practice on Friday with the wall in place, and there were no issues during either session.

Some drivers, like Bell, were actually more concerned with the differences in how the track drives with the new paved surface than the Turn 11 wall.

The repaved surface has led to ultra-fast laps around the race course, and the track record is expected to fall in Saturday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350.

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