This weekend, the boys of Nascar will put their true driving skills to the test as they turn not only left, but right as well. Road course weekends like this weekend usually produce outcomes that usually do not happen every week. The usual suspects are not so usual, and drivers with curly afro's and Canadian accents take the spotlight at this 11 turn course. With this in mind it's time to preview the Toyota/Save Mart 350 weekend with some things you as a fan should look for:
1. Qualifying does not always determine a drivers fate: In previous years at Infineon, if you qualified bad, chances were you would finish bad. Qualifying usually signified a drivers skill level at the road course. If you couldn't make the turns, you couldn't make the time. This theory was thrown out last year when Juan Pablo Montoya proved it didn't matter where you started. Montoya started the race 32nd and beat and banged his way to the front for the win.
2. Turn 11 will produce drama: TNT's coverage of Nascar is always advertising how it loves drama, and Turn 11 is going to produce it. Drivers have to slow all the way down to 35 mph to conquer the u-shaped turn. Top contenders get taken out, temper flare, and words get exchanged over the radio. Expect this treacherous turn to upset drivers throughout the day.
3. Dale Junior WILL NOT go back to back: It's simple statistics here Junior nation, your driver is not road course savvy like Jeff Gordon or Boris Said. In 8 starts at Infineon, Junior has averaged a 22nd place finish, and has yet to finish a race in the top 10. If anything, fans should hope the Sonoma race ends up being a gas mileage battle. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
4. Robby Gordon could take the spotlight: This is one of two races that Robby Gordon circled on his calendar at the beginning of the year. Gordon has always seemed to show his best at the road course races on Nascar's schedule. I would not be surprised if Gordon is in contention at races end. This is the race that could finally get Robby Gordon Motorsports to where it needs to be.
5. Familiar Cars, Unfamiliar faces: Infineon's race is unique because weekly drivers are booted in favor of the road course specialists. This year is no different. Canadian Ron Fellows will continue his persuit of his first Nascar win in the DEI owned 01 car. Scott Pruett will replace Reed Sorenson in the 41 Target car. (who didn't see that one coming?) Scott Riggs will give up his seat to Cart veteran Max Papis and will move over to the 70 car. I am guessing ol' Scott will have an early start to his weekend plans. What does this do for teams? It helps struggling teams gain points it wouldn't have with their usual drivers, and gives them a chance to crack the top 35. Other teams make the move to solidify their status in the owner points.
6. New Points Leader?: Don't be surprised if Jeff Burton overtakes Kyle Busch in the points standings after Infineon. Burton posted his worst finish of the season at Michigan finishing 15th.(Not bad for the crafty veteran) Burton has four top 10's in 10 starts at Infineon. Busch has one top 10 in three starts. Burton sits 32 points behind Busch. Don't be surprised if Busch struggles and Burton excels.
7. Jeff Gordon will return to his usual self at Sonoma:Let's face it, Infineon Raceway is Jeff Gordon's personal playground out West. Gordon has 5 poles, 5 wins, 7 top 5's, 8 top 10's and a partridge in a pear-tree at Infineon. Gordon has struggled this year (in my own opinion) and if history has anything to do with this weekends race, Gordon could pick up his first win of the year. Anything worst than a top 10 will be disappointing for the Gordon and the Rainbow Warriors.
(Photo Credit: Flicker.com)
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