An essential landmark in the world of American motorsports, Sonoma Raceway has challenged racing’s greatest drivers for more than 50 years. Along the edge of San Pablo Bay, an hour from San Francisco and just south of the wine country town of Sonoma, the facility has hosted an assortment of top-level professional races, including NASCAR Cup, IndyCar, GT World Challenge America, and National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) events.
Built on onetime farmland, the raceway is most famous for its 12-turn full circuit that drops 160 feet along a rolling 2.52-mile course. When Sonoma Raceway opened in 1968, it was known as Sears Point Raceway and such International Motorsports Hall of Fame drivers as Mark Donohue and Parnelli Jones competed in Trans-Am Championship events during the track’s early years. Lined with marble plaques, the raceway’s Wall of Fame honors top drivers in a variety of motorsport disciplines, including NASCAR standouts Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart (who took the checkered flag here three times) and NHRA legends Don Prudhomme and John Force.
These days, stock car fans come out for such top races as the Toyota/Save Mart 350, while NHRA buffs flock here for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at the raceway’s drag strip. You can buy day or weekend passes and many visitors opt to camp out at campgrounds perfectly positioned right alongside the track’s serpentine turns, or on the infield. And if you want a view of all of the action along Pit Row, nothing beats a seat in the main grandstand.
Sonoma Raceway also offers several ways that you can get out on the track yourself. The Sears Point Racing Experience puts you behind the wheel of the world’s most advanced racing school cars during sessions led by professional racecar drivers. In the Performance Driving Program, take your own car around the circuit following classroom instruction and an introduction to the nuances of the racecourse. Or you can rev up for a variety go kart programs that will have you roaring around the track at speeds of up to 70mph.