SO MUCH FOR THAT OLD WIVES' TALE Well, there goes the idea over in NASCAR land that at Sonoma one must start "up front" so as to win. No driver has started any worse than 13th and won before Juan Pablo Montoya's Sunday win at Infineon Raceway...
SO MUCH FOR THAT OLD WIVES' TALE
Well, there goes the idea over in NASCAR land that at Sonoma one must start "up front" so as to win.
No driver has started any worse than 13th and won before Juan Pablo Montoya's Sunday win at Infineon Raceway in his No. 42 Havoline Dodge CupCar for owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates,.
Even Nextel Cup points leader Jeff Gordon felt there would be no way he'd win yet another Sonoma - where he's won five times - in the wake of his (and teammate Jimmie Johnson's) DuPont Chevrolet CupCar failing inspection Friday and starting 41st. (On which word comes late Monday that their penalty will be announced at any time and will be "big.")
"We'll try to do everything in our power to get the best finish out here we can. I'll be honest: right now it's a little hard for us to be realistic about a win; it's more about being realistic about trying to get a top 10."
Now knowing a first-place-finishing Montoya started 32nd and won, maybe Gordon should've set his sights a little higher. After all, Gordon's done pretty darn good at Infineon, having previously scored 10 top-10's in his 14 races there.
While few racers have been unhappy with a win, Montoya wasn't exactly relishing the winner's spotlight as much as might some other drivers because Montoya knows his stats as well as anyone. With 16 Nextel Cup races under his belt thus far in 2007, JPM's scored only three, count 'em, three top-10 finishes - one of those coming in the series' first road race of the season race at Infineon Raceway.
"We know we're a little behind on some of the ovals but I think this is a big boost for everybody working in the shop," Montoya said.
MAYBE IT'S JUST THOSE "NEGATIVE VIBES, MORIARITY"
Jeff Burton, who finished third in his Richard Childress-owned No. 31 "Wrong Cell Phone Company" Chevrolet CupCar, after the race noted his Nextel CupCar needed more development.
"It has its problems," Burton said, "There's no question."
"All of the problems is because it's a brand-new piece."
Sitting fifth in Nextel Cup points, one can only wonder what Burton will do should his Nextel Cup team successfully configure its Nextel CupCar for the 2008-season.
Well, here's a suggestion for the CupCar guys (even the crew and car chiefs). . .
GO DAYTONA PROTOTYPE RACIN'
Juan Pablo Montoya's been there and done that.
He, along with Scott Pruett and Salvador Duran won January's Rolex 24 At Daytona in a Daytona Prototype. Montoya posted a race-high 170 lead laps in the race. Pruett posted a second-high 161 laps in the lead.
Here, though, I'll momentarily digress.
In referencing the Nextel Cup's newest wheels most say "COT," which at the very least is a misnomer because it's here today and, for six previous 2007 races, has officially been here since "yesterday." So, count me out of this "Car of Tomorrow" name thing.
Additionally, the soon-to-be-renamed Busch Series ain't gonna use the platform. At least not from what Busch Series director Joe Balash has told me.
"We're going to build our own identity over here," Balash said. "The (Nextel CupCar) is Nextel Cup's deal."
Thus, used in the generic: Nextel CupCar.
Even though the Marketing Suits likely won't go for it, I personally favor "Daytona" CupCar because many of the Nextel CupCar's newest aspects -- splitter, rear wing, driver position and more -- migrated from The Rolex Sports Car Series' Daytona Prototype and credit should be given where due. Besides, Daytona's a great place to live, work and play -- especially at a certain nearby big ol' race track.
It's likely Juan Pablo arrived at Sonoma with a few Nextel CupCar set-up lessons -- derived from his Rolex 24-winning Target/Telmex No. 01 Lexus-Riley Daytona Prototype -- already in his hip pocket.
Oh, to be sure, some Sonoma news-coverage sources cited "fuel strategy" as being an integral part of JPM's victory there.
Um, just a thought, but how many times has an ill-handling car won anything with a great fuel strategy? Efficient fuel usage isn't exactly the Hallmark of a poorly set-up car. Neither is "saving" tires.
How might a Nextel CupCar oval-track driver benefit from a road-racing machine? For starters, think "Daytona" - at which the entire oval, save a few hundred feet, is used as part of the Rolex Sports Car Series' 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway "road course."
Lest we forget: Jeff Gordon, who at Sonoma went all the way from 41st to seventh, finished third in this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona.
-Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams