SONOMA, Calif. — As a born-and-bred Northern Californian, Kyle Larson is quite familiar with the numerous twists and 11 turns on the vaunted Sonoma Raceway road course.

That doesn’t make him much better at navigating them in a stock car.

“Turn 1 up through the hill, all the way basically through Turn 4, I’m really good,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said Friday. “Off of Turn 4, I struggle. (Turn) 7, I struggle. (Turn) 11, I struggle. Clint (Bowyer) is trying to teach me a little throttle control. That is where I lack. And then the S’s, I’m decent at. And then Turn 11, I kind of (stink) again. Any corner where you have to slow down and speed back up, I tend to struggle at, so I’ve got to get better at that.”

Larson isn’t alone. Road course racing skills – such as the ability to turn right – are becoming more important in NASCAR. The circuit has three non-oval tracks on its schedule this season for the first time in 31 years, and many drivers would like to see more in the future.

“It’s fun to get to do something totally different than (how) I grew up racing,” Larson said. “A pavement oval is totally different than what I grew up doing, but a road course is way opposite. I enjoy it. I feel like I get better and better at it.”

The challenge begins in wine country this weekend on the tight, technical road track that has bedeviled many NASCAR drivers over the years. After the annual stop at Watkins Glen’s longer, faster road course in August, the drivers must figure out Charlotte Motor Speedway’s new hybrid track dubbed the “roval” – a road course connected to its traditional oval – at a playoff race in September.

“It is an acquired taste, just like the wine right down the street,” said Bowyer, who won at Sonoma in 2012 and finished second last year.

FORMULA ONE: Lewis Hamilton was fastest in two practice sessions for the French Grand Prix, while his top rival struggled to figure out the unfamiliar track as Formula One returned to the country for the first time in a decade.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who leads Mercedes driver Hamilton by one point after seven of 21 races, had trouble adapting to the 3.6-mile Paul Ricard Circuit in Le Castellet and was fifth fastest in the morning and in the afternoon.