NASCAR introduced its change to double-file restarts at two wide, forgiving tracks - Pocono and Michigan - with negligible effect of the outcomes of the two most recent Sprint Cup races.
At Infineon Raceway, the new format suddenly gets interesting, to the extent that it is almost certain to play a role in determining the winner of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.
With the exception of the start of the race, cars at road-course races traditionally have taken the green flag single file. That's about to change, as lead-lap cars fighting for position will restart side-by-side after every caution. That multiplies exponentially the potential for disaster.
After crossing the starting line past the main grandstand, drivers streak uphill toward a hard right-hand turn approaching the highest point on the 1.99-mile course.
"It's going to look like the start of the race on every restart," said Kyle Busch, last year's winner. "We all have to wait on each other to get up the hill. I'm sure, later in the race, people aren't going to be so patient. They're going to want to get going.
"The way this racetrack is, there seems one particular groove, and the more we run, the more the sand develops in the outside lanes. I hope NASCAR does a good job of cleaning the front straightaway and up the hill for us. It'll be pretty 'icy' getting up there, and pretty dicey as well."
David Gilliland, the runner-up at Infineon in 2008, guarantees there will be action on the restarts.
"If you go back the last 15 races here, you almost always see accidents and people going off on the first lap getting up the hill," Gilliland said. "There's one groove getting up there, and it's going to be exciting for everybody. Being on the front row on those restarts is definitely going to be an advantage."
Jeff Burton likens the restarts at Infineon to a crowded freeway.
"Of all the restarts we do all year, this one is probably the hardest," Burton said. "Going up the hill and getting to the top of the hill and having to make a 90-degree turn, the speed difference between the guys still going up the hill and the guys at the top of the hill having to make the turn is huge.
"Every year we see people get run over because the closure rate's so high. If two guys in the front get bottled up more than you anticipate, it's just like a freeway. The cars behind them get slowed down, but the cars behind THEM don't get slowed down quite as much, and it just keeps going. It's like bumper-car tag up there."
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News