Here it is, Race Fans!Â This is one of two weekends where we get to shut up the NASCAR haters.Â You know the typeâ€¦.the ones who say NASCAR is nothing but a bunch of left turns.Â We get to stand up, loud and proud, and sayâ€¦.
Weâ€™re turning right!
NASCAR is taking its show to the west coast this weekend with the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA.Â This 2.5 road course is located in the heart of California wine country, but this track is anything but genteel.Â Passing opportunities on this track are made, not earned.Â Any advancement in positions is usually the result of someoneâ€™s mistake, or a little nudge from the faster car behind.Â It takes patience to get through a day at this track.Â Unfortunately, it seems there is very little of that to go around this year in NASCAR.
Road Course Ringers:
Letâ€™s face it.Â Most NASCAR drivers are not very adept when it comes to right turns.Â It takes finesse to run a road course, so some teams will field an extra car or replace their full-time driver with someone they consider to be a road course specialist.Â The entry list for this weekend will not read like a normal oval race.Â Names like Boris Said, Brian Simo, and P.J.Â Jones show up on this list twice a year, here at Infineon and at Watkins Glen International Speedway.
But, this year seems to be a little bit different.Â These drivers are not replacing full time NSC drivers, but are driving in separate entries.Â Someone finally wised up!
While these gentlemen are specialists in their respective cars and divisions, it does not necessarily mean that they will jump into a NSC car and compete for the win.Â Not one of those drivers mentioned have won a NSC race even when they were specially brought in to do exactly that.Â Boris Said has the best finish of the â€œringersâ€ with a 3rd place followed by Simo with a 10th place finish.Â Â The experience of driving in NASCAR full time is outweighing the lost points the owners may receive from a less talented road course driver.
NASCAR does bring some extremely talented road course racers to the table.Â Jeff Gordon is NASCARâ€™s all-time win leader on the road courses.Â He has nine road course victories, five of which have come at Infineon Raceway.Â Tony Stewart comes in second on that list with seven road course victories.
It is rare that I will tout Juan Pablo Montoyaâ€™s abilities on any track, unless Iâ€™m counting the driver most likely to upset the entire field.Â I have to give JPM his due on a road course.Â He comes from a Formula 1 background where Iâ€™m not even sure they race on ovals.Â This man has the ability to turn right and then some.Â JPM is starting a little deep in the field in 17th, but if he can keep from beating himself, he will be strong this weekend.
I have my pick to win for Sundayâ€™s race at Sonoma, but I fear calling him out will jinx him.Â I tend to have that effect on drivers.Â So, all I will say, is I will have a cold Fosters and some shrimp for the barbie ready for his victory celebration.Â Go get â€˜em, you Tasmanian devil! (And please donâ€™t turn off the car this time!)
Will Jeff Gordon Survive:
I think it has been fairly obvious to my dear readers that I am a Jeff Gordon fan, but I will be the first to call him out when necessary.Â Last yearâ€™s race at Sonoma made me want to bury my head in my hands and hide my 24 gear.Â Jeff drove with such a case of rectal/cranial inversion, that even he said he was just trying to forget the race even happened.Â Jeff got into Elliot Sadler, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Martin Truex, Jrâ€¦all on separate occasions.Â He did apologize to most after the race, but NASCAR drivers have good memories, but if they have forgotten, the media will be right there to remind them.Â Will there be some retaliation against Jeff on Sunday?
Joey Logano is WHERE?!?
Thatâ€™s right.Â The Home Depot 20 is on the pole at Sonoma.Â Â No, we havenâ€™t traveled back in time to 2008 when Tony Stewart would have put that car on the pole.Â This is 2011 and that driver is Joey Logano.Â Iâ€™m not going to lie.Â I fear for the first few laps of the race.Â Drivers will need to be on their toes when this kid leads them into the first turn.
Some fans believe that the road courses are a boring, unnecessary part of the NASCAR schedule.Â I LOVE them.Â As far as Iâ€™m concerned, road course racing separates the stars from the field fillers.Â It is a welcome break from the latest stretch of cookie cutter tracks and fuel mileage races.Â They are unpredictable and capable of causing fights like a short track Saturday night.Â (Kevin Harvick and JPM, anyone?)
Iâ€™ll have my bottle of wine chilled and ready for this race from Californiaâ€™s wine country.Â Muscato, anyone?