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Nascar at Sonoma: Infineon Will Be A Shootout between Ringers and Regulars

I love watching road racing with stock cars and Nascar road racing with the COT is definitely at the top of my list. There’s just something I like about a full body race car going fast and turning right as well as left.

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I’m not one of those fans that thinks Nascar should drop the road racing tracks in favor of something else in an oval. I think it is an important and integral part of the overall package that Nascar presents. They often say their drivers are the best in the world and they don’t add the stipulation of, “Except on Road courses.” You see, I like seeing what these guys can do with the challenge of something different to them and a bit foreign to what they may have been brought up in and around. The road courses do exactly that.

When Nascar goes to the road courses, it is interesting how many of the road course “ringers” show up to see how they can do against Nascar’s best. It is also interesting how they talk about their laps and how they compare them with the likes of Tony Stewart, Kyle Bush, Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson and several others that show themselves to be strong whether on ovals or road racing tracks.

I have seen something different going on at this year’s first road race. In the past, there were several drivers that everybody focused on and expected to win. The rest of the field and the road course “ringers” were usually given honorable mentions along with the stronger Nascar regulars. This year, I see more competitive efforts coming from drivers that usually are hardly even mentioned.

Take for example, Brian Vickers taking the pole this weekend. He ran an incredibly fast lap and surprised many. Kyle Bush showed up fast off the truck, qualified second and showed he is a road course force to be reckoned with once again this year, (and don’t forget how well he performed on last year’s road courses.)

I am looking forward to the race on Sunday because of the way it seems to be an upside down lineup. I expect the first part of the race to be a sort of runaway with Brian Vickers and Kyle Bush breaking away. I know they could possibly stay up front for most of the race but I expect to see a few things go wrong like engine failures and driver error and that will keep the field closer together.

In reality, we’ve already seen some engine and transmission failures in the practice sessions and I expect there may be a few more guys that run into each other, taking each other out and off the track maybe taking with them someones chance to win.

The possibility of wheel-hop is high at this track and it can happen to anyone, no matter what their experience. If it does happen, it’s going to come down to when it happens, where they end up after it does and how many laps are left to make up lost spots.

Could it be that this week will be another week of who get the best fuel mileage? I don’t know, but it is possible. Montoya used it to pull off a victory a couple of years ago so I don’t think it can be ruled out.

I don’t think the fastest single lap time is going to bring home a winner this weekend. I do think the one that stays clear of trouble, runs the most consistent faster lap times throughout the race will have a good shot. It could come down to how and when the double file restarts happen. That is one thing that is unknown for this year. Since it hasn’t happened in the past, it should prove to be interesting. I think it does set up the possibility for someone in contention to win to be taken out by someone’s miscue while the field is still bunched up. This is a tight race track and it could make for a very interesting turn of events if it comes at the right time.

As for who might win this thing, I am not really sure. I do think Kyle Bush has a great chance simply because of last years performance and he has been fast this year. Brian Vickers has been very consistent this year and he has also been fast. Jeff Gordon could surprise us all but he does have a long way to go starting in the middle of the pack. Marcos Ambrose having to start in the rear because of engine problems makes his job very difficult but I know he is up to the task if things go better for him Sunday than they have so far this weekend.

Some others are Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jimmy Johnson, Boris Said, Ron Fellows and Patrick Carpentier. I find it hard to rule any of these guys out. I think it is all going to be decided by whether or not the fastest qualifiers have problems or not. Starting out front has a definite advantage.

I would like to see Marcos Ambrose pull off the back to front victory, even though the deck is fairly stacked against him. Even Patrick Carpentier is a good choice, but, I’m going to give the nod to Kyle Bush. Hey, this is road course racing this weekend and anything could happen …and probably will.

See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)

© June 2009 – all rights reserved

Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman

By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.