First road race of the 2009 season and it was a thriller filled with double-file restarts, spins, off-roading, near misses with the turn four wall, and lots of beating and banging. Here are some of the guys who left wine country with their heads held high or there faces covered with grapes.
Anytime you can get the King back into Victory Lane is a great moment for any driver. Kahne showed that although the Dodges may appear to be weaker then their Chevy and Toyota opponents they are by no means done for and with rumors swirling of a switch to Toyota leading the RPM charge that consisted of three cars in the top 10 was the best thing Kahne could have done for himself and his team.
Kahne pulled himself within three points of Juan Montoya and a spot in this year's Chase for the Cup with his performance on Sunday. As it stands right now Kahne is the only Dodge other than current fourth place Kurt Busch with a legitimate shot at making the Chase and contending for a title.
Infineon finish: Winner
Points: 13th, 1914 (450 behind Stewart, three behind 12th place Montoya)
Stewart continued his story book season with his eighth top five and 12th top 10 of the season on Sunday extending his lead over second place Jeff Gordon to 84 points and making him seemingly a lock for the Chase. The runner-up finish on Sunday improved Stewart's average finish at Sonoma to 9.27 with a perfect lap completion percentage.
Stewart is currently posting a season average finish of 8.44 and the last time he had a season average finish of lower than 10, he won his second Sprint Cup championship. Sunday also continued Stewart's current streak of finishing races improving it to 40 races without a DNF.
Infineon finish: Second
Points: First, 2364 (84 ahead of Gordon, 450 ahead of 13th place Kahne)
Allmendinger continued his season of improvement on Sunday when he was one of the three RPM cars in the top 10 with a seventh place finish in his No. 44 Best Buy Dodge. Allmendinger, who has been running at the finish of all 16 races this season, climbed two spots up the Sprint Cup standings and is within 200 points of a spot in the top 20.
Allmendinger has a growing following amongst the NASCAR fan community and should these type of finishes continue more sponsors are going to take notice of this young driver giving him more security in his ride in the No. 44 over at RPM through next season and beyond.
Infineon finish: Seventh
Points: 29th, 1447 (917 behind Stewart, 470 behind 12th place Montoya)
Sadler has had quiet improvement at the road course races on the NASCAR schedule and he continued that with a 10th place performance on Sunday and used that to propel himself four spots in the point standings into 23rd.
While 347 points may be a bit too much for Sadler to overcome to earn a spot in the Chase he is only 70 points behind 20th place Earnhardt Jr. and a top 20 points performance would be a good momentum boost for this team going into 2010 and beyond.
Infineon finish: 10th
Points: 23rd, 1570 (794 behind Stewart, 347 behind 12th place Montoya)
Montoya has shown his skill at the road course events in his short stock car career including a win in his very first season at Sonoma and he continued to impress on Sunday with his second sixth place performance at Sonoma in a row. The finish also vaulted the Columbian driver up into 12th, the final Chase qualification spot.
With rumors swirling of teammate Martin Truex Jr. leaving the team at the end of this season Montoya is making a case to become the franchise player for Earnardt Ganassi Racing in 2010 and beyond.
Infineon finish: Sixth
Points: 12th, 1917 (447 behind Stewart, 3 ahead of 13th place Kahne)
Sorenson continued to appear to be the lame horse in the RPM stable as he was relegated to a 40th place finish while all three of his teammates brought back top 10 performances including the win by Kahne.
Now that the other three RPM teams are starting to perform better, Sorenson and the No. 43 team need to put in a lot of work to do the same and make sure that the economic crunch doesn't lead the powers that be at RPM to consider closing the doors on that team.
Infineon finish: 40th
Points: 27th, 1487 (877 behind Stewart, 430 behind 12th place Montoya)
A miserable 34th place performance for Burton and the No. 31 RCR team was not only a disappointing day for that reason but also because that finish dropped them out of the top 12 in points into 15th place 46 points behind 12th place Montoya.
Now there are no representatives of RCR in the top 12 in points as Burton and teammate Clint Bowyer are leading the RCR charge in 15th and 16th place respectively. Both these drivers need to have top ten performances at New Hampshire to remain legit contenders for a spot in the Chase.
Infineon finish: 34th
Points: 15th, 1871 (493 behind Stewart, 46 behind 12th place Montoya)
Well the weekend started with optimism for this former F1 driver in his first Sprint Cup road course start but that optimism was quickly deflated when Speed was one of four drivers to DNQ for Sunday's race. Fortunately for Speed, Red Bull's checks are always accepted by NEMCO Motorsports so Speed would race in Joe Nemechek's No. 87 Toyota.
But Speed would still have a disappointing race day on the road course as early contact with fellow rookie Joey Logano would force Speed to visit pit road and a late spin stalling the car on the track would relegate Speed to a 37th place finish.
Infineon finish: 37th
Points: 35th, 1093 (1271 behind Stewart, 824 behind 12th place Montoya)
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt Jr. continued his seemingly less than average season with a 26th place finish on Sunday and continuing to show pretty much no improvement since the change was made atop the pit box swapping Eury Jr. in favor of Lance McGrew.
Hendrick's patience with this team has been surprising to a point, obviously he isn't going to get rid of Junior anytime soon due to the amount of sales that he brings in at the souvenir trailer but there has got to be a point where a fire needs to be lit underneath Junior's behind.
Infineon finish: 26th
Points: 20th, 1640, (724 behind Stewart, 277 behind 12th place Montoya)
Stremme continues to turn in poor performances week after week including this weekend's 39th place performance at Sonoma sitting 31st in points and proving himself to be the lame horse in the Penske stable. As I have said before if this continues Stremme's job with that No. 12 team may be in trouble.
Infineon finish: 39th
Points: 31st, 1362 (1002 behind Stewart, 555 behind 12th place Montoya)
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