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Keys To Victory Races at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International usually present a challenge for drivers used to navigating around oval tracks. Drivers must have a good handle on when to press and when to hold back. Passing can be...

Keys To Victory

Races at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International usually present a challenge for drivers used to navigating around oval tracks. Drivers must have a good handle on when to press and when to hold back. Passing can be limited at certain points on the track, so it is important to know where -- and when -- to pass. Things to watch for:

* COT -- How the front splitter reacts to the aggressive curves of the road course; Most teams will run flat end plates on the wing.

* Passing -- The best place to pass is coming into Turn 10. Cars must be in good position coming out of Turn 9; Turn 7 is another good passing area.

* Experience -- The road course specialists may have experience on the course, but not in the new car.

In The Loop: Road Course Specialists Have Impressive Stats

Races at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International have taken on an Us-versus-Them mentality between the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regulars and the road course specialists.

Thus far, the battle is one-sided, with the regulars capturing win after win. But the road course aces have gained ground.

Take Boris Said, for instance. After an average finish of 31.3 over his first three Infineon Raceway appearances (2000-2002), Said has notched three top-10 finishes. Over the past two years, Said has earned the fifth-best Driver Rating at 104.3 and the fourth-best Average Running Position at 9.132. Additionally, he has run 191 Laps in the Top 15, which is fourth-most of any driver.

Brian Simo could be another road course specialist in contention Sunday. He hasn't raced at Infineon Raceway since 2005, but impressed with a 10th-place finish. In that race, Simo had a solid Driver Rating of 77.2 and an Average Running Position of 20.336, which is second-best among road course aces competing Sunday.

Still, the regulars sit atop all the Loop Data statistics. With finishes of third and fifth over the past two years, Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) has been the most consistent of the regulars. He has series-best numbers in Average Running Position (4.205), Driver Rating of (121.2) and Laps in the Top 15 (217).

Also among the statistical leaders are Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) and Jeff Gordon, both of whom are regular road course threats. Stewart, who won at Sonoma in 2005, is second in pre-race Driver Rating with 119.1, second in Average Running Position at 5.455 and first in Fastest Laps Run with 39.

Gordon, the defending champion of this race, is fourth in Driver Rating with a 107.1 and fifth in Average Running Position at 11.582. He has 29 Fastest Laps Run, which is second only to Stewart.

Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) is another driver who has taken to the road course terrain. With a career average finish of 7.8 over five Infineon Raceway races, Newman has proven formidable. Over the last two years -- which were finishes of ninth and second -- Newman has an Average Running Position of 5.923 and a Driver Rating of 117.6.

NNCS, Etc. ...

Cruisin' With The Coast Guard

Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) and eight of his teammates will take a special trip with the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday. The team will take a ride on a 47-foot Motor Life Boat out of Station Golden Gate -- the busiest search and rescue station on the West Coast.

The team will take a short cruise through San Francisco Bay and around Alcatraz. The trip will then take them under the Golden Gate Bridge before returning back to the Station, which is located underneath the north side of the Bridge.

"It's always fun to do something different," Newman said. "The opportunity presented itself for me and the guys to go out with the Coast Guard when we get to Sonoma and we jumped at the chance.

"We've got a nice little boat tour of the Bay planned, but you never know if something will come up and we get the chance to see the Coast Guard in action."

Double Duty

David Gilliland will try to repeat his father's success at Infineon Raceway on Saturday when he competes in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series Blue Lizard Suncream 200. His father, Butch, won back-to-back West Series races at the track in 1996 and 1997 and went on to win the series' championship in 1997. Ironically, David served as his crew chief during his championship year.

David also has visited Victory Lane at the track as a driver -- he won in 2004 in the NASCAR Elite Division, Southwest Series.

Expected to join Gilliland in the West Series field this weekend are Boris Said, Regan Smith and Busch East Series phenoms Joey Logano and Marc Davis.

On Deck: New Hampshire Marks Beginning Of Race To The Chase

New Hampshire International Speedway will play a key role in this year's championship, as it hosts the first race in the Race to the Chase and the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Next Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 300 is the first of the 10-race stretch leading into the Chase. The top 12 drivers after the Sept. 8 race at Richmond International Raceway will compete for the championship.

***

The Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350

The Place: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
The Date: Sunday, June 24

The Time: 5 p.m. (ET)
TV: TNT, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

The Track: 1.99-mile road course
The Distance: 350 km; 110 laps

The Purse: $5,477,835

2006 Winner: Jeff Gordon
2006 Pole: Kurt Busch

Pre-Race Schedule (local/PT time):
Friday -- Practice, 12:30-2 p.m. Qualifying -- 4:05 p.m.
Saturday -- Practice, 9-9:50 a.m. and 12:20-1:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Boris Said , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Brian Simo , Regan Smith , David Gilliland , Joey Logano , Marc Davis