* A well-rounded skill: Equipment, patience and smoothness key to good road course performances * Familiar faces: Boris Said leads list of road-racing specialists at Infineon * History lesson: Ricky Rudd the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup winner at...
* A well-rounded skill: Equipment, patience and smoothness key to good road course performances
* Familiar faces: Boris Said leads list of road-racing specialists at Infineon
* History lesson: Ricky Rudd the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup winner at Infineon
NEWS AND NOTES
They Like Road Courses: Martin, Wallace, Rudd Lead Standout List ... Either with the hope of scaling the standings, or padding one's position, here's a look at NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers who excel on road courses:
• Jeff Gordon leads the list with eight road-course wins. He has four at Infineon and four at Watkins Glen. Gordon won three consecutive events at Infineon from 1998-2000 and three straight at Watkins Glen from 1997-99.
• Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford) won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event at Infineon in 1989. He also won the 2002 race. His other road-course wins have come at Watkins Glen (1988, 1990).
• Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) has one victory at Infineon, in 1997. He won three straight at Watkins Glen from 1993-95.
• Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) won the 1990 and 1996 events at Infineon and the 1987 and 1989 events at Watkins Glen.
• Also watch out for Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon (No. 7 Harrah's Chevrolet), the other NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers with multiple road-course wins. Stewart has three -- 2001 at Infineon and 2002 and 2004 at Watkins Glen. Gordon has two road-course wins; he swept both 2003 events.
This Is What It Takes: Drivers' Road-Course Tips ... As with any different venue, road-course racing both necessitates and negates certain theories and set-ups. The many turns and changes in elevation are two variables; track position, car control and mechanical components are other parts of the equation.
"There are a lot of drivers out here today that can get around road courses," Ricky Rudd said. "They can be competitive. And in my interpretation of road racing there is not a right way or a wrong way. There are schools that tell you the right way. Each driver takes the proper technique and finds the technique that works for him. And there is not really a right way or a wrong way."
There are, however, basics that help a driver find road-racing comfort. Jeff Gordon cites "wheel hopping," where the rear wheels bounce and upset a car's balance, as something to avoid.
"The biggest challenge is the downshifting," Gordon said. "When you drive in hard into the corners and you're braking very, very deep, and then you start downshifting the car, first to get the car slowed down a little bit more and also to get into the proper gear to come up off the next corner. It can be very challenging."
For Rudd, it's detail -- road-course cars prepared with the same precision that's applied to teams' weekly fleets.
"And, the end result is that instead of having three guys that could win on a weekend, now you have 25 guys that could win," Rudd said. "The modern equipment that we have today certainly gives you a large percentage of racers that are good road racers because of the equipment, and then there are some that are still good road racers naturally."
And, Gordon added, don't forget the fun factor.
"I think one of the fun things is taking the car left and right through the corners and just feeling the car swing both ways -- driving up over the curbs and the elevation changes," Gordon said. "I think that it's certainly some of the most challenging laps that you'll make in these type of cars."
Road-Course Masters ... Drivers who specialize in road racing are a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup fixture at Infineon -- also a valid barometer for peers looking to improve or measure road-course skills against a specialist. Three drivers -- Boris Said, Ron Fellows and Scott Pruett -- are among the road-racing gurus competing at Infineon this week.
Said (No. 36 CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet) has two consecutive sixth-place finishes at Infineon. He's also now a regular part of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage. Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350 should be Said's fifth start this season; he plans to run 13 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races this season for MB/Sutton Motorsports as a teammate to Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) and Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline Chevrolet).
Pruett (No. 39 Texaco/Havoline "Shine On" Dodge), a Sacramento, Calif., native, also is no stranger to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage. He has 36 series starts dating back to 2000, including four at Infineon. Last year, he finished third in the Dodge/Save Mart 350 behind Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline "Shine On" Dodge).
Fellows, a native of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, has competed in 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events. He finished second at Watkins Glen last year while driving a third entry for Dale Earnhardt Inc. This week, he'll drive the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet for owner Cal Wells III, stepping in for Bobby Hamilton Jr., for one event.
Other drivers with road-course experience who plan to compete this weekend are Sonoma, Calif.-native Chris Cook (No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet), Tom Hubert (No. 27 Freddie B's Ford) and Brian Simo (No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet).
Edwards An Infineon Factor? Stay Tuned ... NASCAR NEXTEL Cup newcomer Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) has surprised many in the NASCAR world with his energetic performances, and this weekend offers another such opportunity. Edwards is scheduled to run his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup road-course race, and only the second such event of his young career. It also will be Edwards' first event at Infineon Raceway.
Recent history is on his side: The last time Edwards competed on a track for the first time, he won, two weeks ago at Pocono Raceway. He also finished third in the NASCAR Busch Series' Telcel MOTOROLA 200 presented by Banamex on March 6 in Mexico City -- his only other road-course competition.
"Once you point it out, it's like putting a duck in the water," said road-racing specialist Boris Said, of his coaching work with Edwards and other NASCAR NEXTEL Cup peers. "They just know how to swim. Most of them picked it up really well. The example, Carl Edwards, he never road raced in his life and he spent a couple of days at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and we went down to Mexico and he's the fastest car there. Good drivers pick it up pretty quick."
Edwards is running a fulltime schedule in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series, and this weekend marks the third straight week he'll do double-duty at separate venues. He plans to run the SBC 200 at The Milwaukee Mile on Saturday prior to Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
Doing Research: Southwest Series Offers Valuable Seat Time ... Prior to Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350, the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series will take the spotlight. Saturday's Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200 not only offers regional competitors an opportunity to gain experience and exposure before a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup audience, but also a valuable outlet for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers.
Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet), Travis Kvapil (No. 77 Kodak-Jasper Engines Dodge), Hermie Sadler, Boris Said and Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) are all scheduled to compete in Saturday's Southwest Series race. Said will drive Ken Schrader's No. 99 Southwest Series car. The Southwest Series has raced at Infineon since 1987, with Ron Hornaday Jr., Schrader, Kurt Busch (No. 97 Crown Royal Ford) and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) collecting victories.
Ford Leads Chevrolet In Manufacturers Standings ... After 15 races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Ford got its eighth victory of 2005 last Sunday thanks to Greg Biffle's (No. 16 National Guard-Post It Ford) win at Michigan International Speedway. The win also gave Ford its first lead of the season in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings, with Dodge running third with one win. Ford leads Chevrolet, which has six wins, by a 108-106 margin; Dodge has 67 points. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned in this fashion: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series point leader. Greg Biffle, second in points, is the top Ford driver. Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge) is the leading Dodge driver, seventh in the points.
Owner Points Update: Top 35 Heading to Infineon ... Beginning in 2005, teams outside the top 35 in owner championship points must qualify on speed for each week's 43 starting spots. The top-35 designation guarantees a spot. Beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500 and running through the Bristol race on April 3, the top 35 in 2004 owner points was the yardstick. Beginning with the Martinsville race on April 10, the current top 35 became the yardstick.
On the Right Track
• Jeff Gordon and Ricky Rudd lead all active drivers with four Bud Poles each at Infineon.
• Gordon is the all-time NASCAR leader with 361 laps led in 12 races at Infineon.
• Mark Martin's 13 top-10 finishes at Infineon leads all drivers.
• Ricky Rudd leads all drivers with nine top-five finishes at Infineon.
From the Archives: Rudd Wins First NASCAR Race at Infineon ... The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series made its inaugural trip to Infineon Raceway in 1989, marking the series' first return to northern California since Eddie Gray won a 100-mile race at Sacramento's California State Fairgrounds in 1961.
The first Infineon event was 300 kilometers covering 74 laps over the then-2.52 mile course. Along with the regular NASCAR stars, several West Coast competitors entered the event including the legendary Hershel McGriff, West Coast champions Bill Schmitt and Roy Smith, and road course specialist Darren Brassfield.
Rusty Wallace took the pole, but it was Ricky Rudd, driving Kenny Bernstein's Buick, who led the most laps and won the event by a margin of just .05 of a second over Wallace. Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt finished third and fourth, with Lake Speed rounding out the top five.
On Deck: Daytona International Speedway ... Race No. 17 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Saturday, July 2 -- the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Daytona, a 2.5-mile tri-oval, has been part of the schedule since 1959 when the race winner was Fireball Roberts. ... Jeff Gordon is defending champion; also last year's polesitter.
The race: Dodge/Save Mart 350 (Race No. 16 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. (1.99-mile road course.)
The date/time: Sunday, June 26, 3:35 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,322,397.
Race length: 350 kilometers, 218 miles, 110 laps.
Track layout: 2-mile oval.
2004 winner: Jeff Gordon.
2004 polesitter: Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 2,173. 2. Greg Biffle 2,124. 3. Elliott Sadler 1,923. 4. Carl Edwards 1,914. 5. Mark Martin 1,904. 6. Tony Stewart 1,862. 7. Ryan Newman 1,856. 8. Rusty Wallace 1,848. 9. Kurt Busch 1,813. 10. Kevin Harvick 1,803.