Kenny Irwin Sears Point Preview

IRWIN AGGRESSIVE IN TACKLING ROAD COURSE AT SEARS POINT SONOMA, Calif. - In spite of a good finish in the 1998 Save Mart/Kragen 350 at Sears Point Raceway, Kenny Irwin is determined to improve as he deals with road courses on the NASCAR...

IRWIN AGGRESSIVE IN TACKLING ROAD COURSE AT SEARS POINT

SONOMA, Calif. - In spite of a good finish in the 1998 Save Mart/Kragen 350 at Sears Point Raceway, Kenny Irwin is determined to improve as he deals with road courses on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. "We finished a respectable ninth last year," said Irwin, driver of the No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford. "But I'm still not really comfortable with the road races. We only do them twice a year -- here and at Watkins Glen, so it's hard to get on to the right and left turns and the hills and the valleys. I took advantage of some off-time over the winter to go to the Bondurant School of Racing, and I did get a little more comfortable with road courses." Going to road-racing school is quite common for NASCAR competitors, who spend most of their time and get much of their experience on oval tracks. Irwin has taken it a step further, though, by hiring Bill Cooper, an instructor at the Bondurant school, to go to Sonoma with the Texaco/Havoline team as a coach. "These guys are good," said Irwin, the 1998 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. "They spend all of their time on the road courses and I'm hoping Bill can give me some pointers on getting around Sears Point this weekend." Irwin will be at the wheel of the same car he raced at the 1.95-mile course last year. The team had built a new car for this weekend, but after a test at Road Atlanta decided to revert to the car that ran so well for them last year. "That car was good," Irwin said. "If I had been more experienced on the road courses, we probably could have had a top-five finish. That's what we're working on this year." The 29-year-old driver says he spends more time strategizing for the road courses than the other events on the 34-race schedule. "We have been thinking about it for the last two weeks," said Irwin. "We are trying to think about what we need to do to make the car as good as it can be. Personally, I need to get myself into the mode of shifting, taking care of the brakes, the transmission....it's a whole different routine. "A lot of the concern is probably because we don't do these things every weekend. On the ovals, it's a repetitive motion, kind of like the old saying, ‘Go fast, turn left;' but on the road courses, you have to think ahead two or three turns all the time. And your timing needs to be exactly right at every turn to get the most out of every lap." As Irwin returns to Sonoma, he stands 18th in points. Since Richmond on May 15, he has gained six spots in four races. "That's a good thing," said Irwin. "Yes, we're striving for our first win, but in order to get there we need to put ourselves in the position to win. Running consistently, week in and week out, is the first step in that direction. Gaining point positions is proof positive that we're going in the right direction. "Now, if I can just get around those 13 turns at Sears Point this weekend..." Get around it he will, do better he should. One thing is for certain, Irwin will be paying close attention to "Coach" Cooper all weekend long.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup