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Despite rough day, Gonzalez enjoying Sonoma Raceway

  • Victor Gonzalez Jr. waits for his turn to qualify at the Sonoma Raceway on Saturday. Gonzalez spun off course and hit a wall during his run.

SONOMA — Nobody had a worse day at Sonoma Raceway than Victor Gonzalez Jr. on Saturday. Yet nobody is happier heading into the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

With only 43 drivers attempting to qualify for this year's race, everybody gets a place at the starting line today. That means Gonzalez, who spun off the course and hit a wall, ending his qualifying bid early, is poised to become the first Caribbean-born driver to compete in a Sprint Cup event.

Gonzalez, a veteran of seven Nationwide races, was born in Puerto Rico. He now lives in the Dominican Republic, where he works in development for the Toyota Lexus Touring Car program.

NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350

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“I'm the first professional race car driver from the Caribbean,” Gonzalez said as his garage crew — he's bumming a ride from Tommy Baldwin Racing this weekend — prepared his backup car for today. “So it's difficult because you don't have nobody to follow, to get an idea of what you should do. If I'm doing this, and other kids want to start doing it, and I can help them be the guy? Yeah.”

Gonzalez's day went south when the driver in front of him, David Stremme, stalled coming onto the track. Gonzalez caught up to him, and ran out of room while considering a pass. He ended up in the dirt. Now he gets another crack at the big time.

“Everybody at Tommy Baldwin Racing has done an incredible job,” said Gonzalez, 37. “I mean, they're giving 100 percent, and I will do the same thing (today). I'm going to get in that car like it's my parents'.”

THE NEXT EARNHARDT

It was virtually predetermined that Karsyn Elledge would win up behind the wheel on a race car. Her maternal grandfather was Dale Earnhardt Sr., which would make Dale Jr. her uncle. Her paternal grandfather, Terry Elledge, built some of Earnhardt Sr.'s best engines for Richard Childress Racing. Karsyn's mom, Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, is general manager of JR Motorsports, and dad Jimmy Elledge is a veteran NASCAR crew chief.

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