NASCAR »

Lessons from Infineon

Inevitably, something quirky comes from the Sprint Cup Series' annual trip to Northern California.

Is it something in the air — the heady smell of ripening grapes, perhaps — or is the combination of NASCAR stock cars with the technical road course at Infineon Raceway enough to produce the unexpected on a consistent basis?

There it was: Richard Petty back in victory lane as a car owner after a ten-year absence, thanks to driver Kasey Kahne, who had never finished better than 23rd in five previous starts at Infineon. To say the least, that was an unlikely combination.

To make it even more surreal, the alcohol-averse Petty sipped cabernet in victory lane and recalled a barrel-tasting adventure earlier in the week that would have fit right into the movie 'Sideways'.

From a broader perspective, Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 was the 16th race of the Cup season, the last event before the so-called Race to the Chase. With ten races left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set at Richmond, several drivers solidified their positions at Sonoma, while others showed danger signs.

No sweat for Stewart. Though he didn't win the race, Tony Stewart's runner-up finish at Sonoma gave Smoke his eighth top five in the past eleven races and trimmed his average finish for 2009 to 8.4. In that stretch, Stewart has a win, four seconds, two thirds and a fourth and shows no signs of slipping. Given that Stewart has a 450-point lead over 13th-place Kahne, you can write 'Smoke' in indelible ink in one of the Chase positions. At this point, it's a matter of how many races he'll win and what seeding he gets.

No security for 'Shrub'. Finishing 22nd, 2008 race winner Kyle Busch didn't lose positions in the standings, but his ninth place grew more precarious. Busch's lead over Kahne is 48 points, and a couple more poor finishes could drop the top seed for the 2008 Chase out of the all-important top twelve. With three wins, Busch is tied with Mark Martin for the series lead, but Busch needs to right his ship to avoid squandering that advantage.

Incidentally, Martin didn't do himself any favours with a 35th-place finish at Infineon. He's eleventh in points, twelve ahead of Kahne.

No Chasers for Childress. A star-crossed 34th-place run at Infineon dropped Jeff Burton from twelfth to 15th in the standings, the net effect being that Richard Childress Racing doesn't have a driver in a Chase-eligible position. Burton, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer all made the Chase the past two years, but worries stemming from cutbacks in support from General Motors could have a profound effect on the organization. Total loss of factory support for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series undoubtedly affects Harvick, who owns teams in both series.

No joy for Junior. A late-race wreck dropped Dale Earnhardt Jr. from a top-15 run to 26th at Sonoma and cost him two positions in the standings. Now 20th and 277 points behind 12th-place Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt has as much chance of making the Chase as Stewart has of missing it. After a promising start at Dover, where he finished twelfth, Junior's team hasn't gotten the jump-start it had hoped for with the change of crew chiefs from Tony Eury Jr. to Lance McGrew.

No revelry for Roush. It would have been out of line to expect a Roush Fenway Racing driver to win at Infineon. After all, no Roush driver has won a road-course race since Martin went to victory lane at Sonoma in 1997. What no one expected, however, was for all Roush drivers — particularly Carl Edwards — to remain winless since Matt Kenseth claimed the first two races of the season, at Daytona and Fontana.

Nevertheless, there's good news for Roush: Edwards, Kenseth and Greg Biffle are in the top twelve, and Edwards finally ended his 2009 frustration in the Nationwide Series with a victory Saturday night at Milwaukee.

Perhaps that's a good omen.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Kyle Busch [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #20 Hisense Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Great Lakes Flooring/Menards Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 JEGS Toyota, race during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 race, at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 15, 2015 in Lexington, Ohio. (Picture Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Sam Marson and Dave Marson, founders of Nature`s Bakery, pose for a photo opportunity after announcing a multiyear deal partnership during a press conference on August 18, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The partnership will begin with the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for Stewart-Haas Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place Sunday, August 16, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place with Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS who finished in 20th place Sunday, August 16, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Regan Smith, driver of the #7 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Chevrolet, Alex Tagliani, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, and Chris Buescher driver of the #60 Zest Ford, drive during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 15, 2015 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2015 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.