The Sprint Cup Series heads west this week for the 16thrace of the season at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. It is the first out of two road-courses that the Sprint Cup Series will race at this year.
Since this is a road-course race, the road-course specialists will be trying to make it into the field of 43 and send some of the regular competitors home. There are seven road-course specialists attempting to qualify for the race on Sunday. These drivers included Ron Fellows, Scott Preutt, Marcose Ambrose, Brandon Ash, Brian Simo, Boris Said, and Max Papis.
Fortunately for Fellows and Preutt, they do not have to qualify on time because they are already locked into the field. Fellows will be in the 01 car replacing Regan Smith in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevy while Preutt will be piloting the 41 car replacing Reed Sorenson for Ganassi Racing.
These two are locked into the field because the cars they will be driving are in the top 35 in the owner points so they are automatically guaranteed a spot in the race.The entry list for this weekends race has 47 cars listed, which means that four cars will not be making the race.
In my opinion, I believe that some of these road-course specialists will be sending some of the regular Sprint Cup driver’s home. The drivers that I think will not qualify for the race include J.J. Yeley, Joe Nemechek, Scott Riggs, and Brandon Ash.
In my opinion, Yeley, Nemechek, and Riggs are not very good road racers and so I think they will miss the race. Brandon Ash is a good road racers but he doesn’t have the equipment to compete will the other teams in the series.
But do not be surprised if these drivers do make it into the field because they are all very determined and skilled drivers who will lay everything on the line in order to qualify for the race.
The drivers to watch this week include Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ron Fellows and Scott Preutt. All of these drivers have either won at road-courses or have come awfully close a number of times.
In last year’s race, Juan Pablo Montoya won by using fuel strategy to his advantage. You can count on a number of guys stretching it on fuel at the end of the race trying to steal a victory away like Earnhardt Jr. did last week at Michigan.
But when it comes to road-course dominance there is one name that surpasses them all. That name is Jeff Gordon. Gordon is the all-time leader in road-course wins with nine. He is also the all-time leader at Infineon for almost every statistic. He has the most wins with five, the most poles with 5, and the most laps led with 437 at Infineon.
Gordon has owned Infineon in the past and I believe that he could very well get his first win of the season here on Sunday. I think that this is where Gordon ends his slump and begins his climb to the top. Gordon has struggled so far this season but a road-course is where he can put all his bad performances this season, so far, behind him and look ahead to the Chase for the Championship.
Infineon will also be a key race for the drivers to make up ground in point standings. As the points stand right now, David Ragan is just 10 points out of the 12th position and Matt Kenseth is just 14 points behind 12th that is currently held by Clint Bowyer.I believe that Kenseth will put in a good run this week and move into the top 12 in points with Bowyer falling out.
I also think that Kyle Busch will lose the point lead this week with a good run by Jeff Burton. Busch is not known for his road-course talent, which makes me think that he will have problems and finish poorly. Burton, on the other hand, has raced on these road-courses a number of times and knows how to keep out of trouble and get to the finish in one piece.
But I would still keep my eye on Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart this weekend to win the race.