AJ Allmendinger knows the stakes on Sunday: Win on the road course at Sonoma Raceway and he earns a spot in NASCAR's championship race.

The year-old qualifying format almost guarantees a race winner a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, which Allmendinger capitalized on a year ago with a win at Watkins Glen.

It earned him his first Chase berth and was the crowning achievement for one of NASCAR's smaller teams.

Now Allmendinger is hoping for the same outcome this year, with a potential win on the picturesque 1.99-mile track California track.