CONCORD, NC - The Toyota/Save Mart 350 has been circled on Scott Speed's calendar for months.
The road course was not originally on the selective race schedule for Leavine Family Racing's No. 95 Ford Fusion, but Speed quickly convinced them of the benefits of racing through Northern California's wine country.
"The Sonoma Raceway is my home track," Speed said. "I have raced just about everything there. When we finally settled on our part-time schedule, I circled this race because I felt like it was where we would get our strongest finish."
"It is always hard to predict what's going to happen on the track. But I feel we have more control over the outcome on road courses than anywhere else. It also helps to have a home track advantage."
Speed made a compelling argument in favor of the two road courses. Since he's spent so much time on the 12-turn, 1.99-mile course, Speed has high expectations for Sunday's race.
"I raced my first open-wheel race there," Speed said. "We need special cars on the road course, too, but more things are in the driver's hands. When it comes to going home at Sonoma Raceway, I think it's in really good hands."
Crew chief Wally Rogers said a road course car is completely different from the other cars in the team's fleet as Speed's car must be adept in making both left and right turns. It also has a different braking system, amongst other equipment and technology designed specifically for road courses.
"You just don't take a regular car to a road course," Rogers said. "It takes a special car, and when it comes to road courses, Scott is a special driver. That makes all the work worthwhile. We've all been looking forward to this weekend for a long time."
Speed grew up in nearby Manteca. He has two starts at Sonoma in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with a career-best 18th-place finish in 2010 while racing for Red Bull Racing.
"Scott is a proven driver," team owner Bob Leavine said. "We want to give Scott the equipment and resources he needs to win. That's why we changed our minds in favor of Sonoma Raceway. We will give him all the resources he needs; we believe he will give us a great effort in return."
Speed brings a wealth of experience to the second-year team - a lot of which he learned in the turns at Sonoma. His origins in Karting, Speed later expanded to U.S. Formula Russell, U.S. Barber Formula Dodge and U.S. Star Mazda Series. He won the Red Bull Driver Search at Infineon, which earned him a ride in British Formula Three. He won the 2004 Eurocup and German Formula Renault championships, which got him a spot - and an eventually a victory - in Red Bull's talent search in Formula One.
"We have much better odds on the road courses," Speed said.
Which is why Speed and everyone else at Leavine Family Racing's had Sunday's race circled on the calendar for long time.
Leavine Family Racing (LFR), currently a two-team operation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the ARCA Racing Series, is a Texas-based team - headquartered in Tyler, Texas. The racing team also has an entry in the ARCA Racing Series - the No. 95 car with development driver Michael Leavine. The team is owned by Bob and Sharon Leavine.
Leavine Family Racing began competing in NASCAR with four career-starts for the 2011 racing season in NASCAR's premier series.
The team's shop is located in Concord, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway's turn two.
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