Vol. 7 – Infineon – June 26, 2011
Its time to go road racing for the first time in the 2011. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its next stop in Sonoma, California on Sunday for the first of two road courses on the 2011 Cup schedule.
[media-credit name=”InfineonRaceway.com” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]California is home to the highest and lowest points in elevation in the Continental United States, and surprisingly both points are within 100 miles of one another. Mount Whitney in the Eastern Sierras measures 14,495 feet while Bad Water located in the hottest and driest place in the US, Death Valley, is 282 feet below sea level.
Now, the debate still rambles on what is missing from The Chase. I am an extreme advocate for a road-course race to be ran during the last ten races of the season. Road-courses show a driver’s true talent with the constant shifting, breaking, right and left corners, and the overall toughness of a driver behind the wheel.
Infineon makes the most sense for a race in The Chase just because of the weather there during Chase season. The other road course on the schedule, Watkins Glen International, happens to be my home track, and has been known to see snowfall during the last ten weeks of the NASCAR season. The only other option would be to add another road course like Barber Motorsports Park, Road Atlanta, or a true test the brand new Circuit of the Americas being built for next year’s US Grand Prix just outside of Austin. Nonetheless, to really make The Chase complete, a road-course must be added if for nothing else, another wild card race.
I won’t spend too much time on my recap of last week in this week’s picks because my picks last week were less than impressive. I scored no imaginary points last week for myself and my top finisher was shown 14th when the checkered flag flew Sunday afternoon. Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne both had a decent runs going very early, but fell out of the Top 10 in the running order by lap 50. The action picked back up by the mid-way point in the race, Harvick and Kahne battled each other for a Top 5 spot around lap 100. Kahne would eventually make it to fifth before his pitfall of the race came on lap 155 when he ran his car out of fuel. He would make it to pit road, but struggled getting his car fired and sat in his pit box for over a minute before his car finally started once again. Kahne would go on to finish one lap down in 28th, netting me zero points. Harvick lasted a bit longer towards the front, but would eventually hit the wall around lap 182, and bring his Chevy home 14th, also netting me zero points.
I’m a bit torn this week on defining what a Dark Horse is on a road course. I would like to say that it’s a guy that nobody sees coming, sort of like pole-sitter Joey Logano. I sure didn’t see him starting up front tomorrow when I started this column on Thursday Afternoon. Kudos to him for surprising everyone with the pole.
For my Dark Horse pick this week I have to play a little track-position game and go with a guy that has not won on a road course. Clint Boyer does have two Top 5’s at Sonoma and also boasts an average finish of 12.6. Bowyer starts ninth on Sunday and was 14th quickest in practice on Friday. Starting up front at a road course can set the pace for the entire race, and Bowyer has given himself a spot in the Top 10 for Sunday.
The Thunder from Down Under, Marcos Ambrose is my pick to win this Sunday at Infineon. He starts one position in front of Bowyer in eighth and has an astounding record on road courses. Ambrose has an average finish of 9.8 in all his starts on road courses, with four Top 5’s in just six starts. Ambrose was born to drive on road courses and is utterly familiar with left and right turns from his days of Supercar Racing in Australia. He’s got a great car and a great starting spot on Sunday, so watch for him to finish towards the front.
Stay tuned for next week’s preview as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads back to Florida to go night racing once again at Daytona. Until next time…..you stay classy ROAD COURSE NATION.