Busch Prepares for the Demands of Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif. - Some races along the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour are won because of superb handling. Others are won due to brute horsepower. Many victories are attributed to great pit...
Busch Prepares for the Demands of Infineon Raceway
SONOMA, Calif. - Some races along the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour are won because of superb handling. Others are won due to brute horsepower. Many victories are attributed to great pit strategy. Getting optimum fuel mileage has also been responsible for numerous Victory Lane visits, including in the two most recent races.
"The demands at Infineon (Raceway) are all-encompassing; pretty much across-the-board," said Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch, whose eighth-place finish on Sunday at Brooklyn, Mich., moved him back up to fourth in points entering this weekend's Toyota/Save Mart 350 on the winding road course located near Sonoma, Calif. "Most insiders agree that this weekend's race could come down to a fuel mileage battle. A super call on pit road could send a team to Victory Lane. A really tight battle could see a guy with the best-handling car grab the win. It could even be the driver with the most power who comes out on top.
"That's the big thing you always know heading into the races there," said Busch, looking for his career first road course victory after 16 such races entering this weekend . "You know that at least one of those aspects will be credited by the winning team for the victory. More times than not, it's a combination of those things that lands a driver into Victory Lane in the races on that track."
Busch recently paused to reflect on each of the potential winning attributes you will likely hear the triumphant driver boast about come late Sunday afternoon in California:
HANDLING: "While handling certainly doesn't come into play on this track like it does at most all of the other tracks along the circuit, especially on the intermediate tracks like Atlanta, Charlotte (Lowe's Motor Speedway), Texas and Vegas (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), it is super important in several areas of the track. When we focus on our handling there, most of the time is spent on trying to get our Miller Lite Dodge the best we can in negotiating Turn 10 so we can get into the final turn, Turn 11, and out-brake the guy we are racing for position. If you had to pin-point where handling is most critical, that would be the area of the track I'd look to."
HORSEPOWER: "Because of the track's layout with all the winding turns and the changes of elevation that we make, many people overlook the fact that you really do need all the horsepower you can get to get around that place. It's extremely important to have adequate horsepower to get off Turn 11 and blast on down the frontstretch. It's really a double-edged sword, though, because you always have to take in account that the race will likely involve fuel mileage. Teams actually come in there and purposefully de-tune their engines in order to get optimum fuel mileage. This time around there is a little kink thrown into the equation. The double-file restarts we'll see on this road course race for the first time will make it really interesting. If it comes down to a final restart and the fuel mileage is critical, you'll still need all the horsepower that you can get in order to pick up as much track position as possible for the final run. Our engine tuner (Darin Russell) will certainly have his work cut out for him this weekend. We'll be looking for the best balance of horsepower and fuel mileage."
PIT STRATEGY: "It's true that the crew chiefs and strategists really do run these races in reverse. By that I mean that they look at the total number of laps in the race, calculate their fuel mileage and count back from the end of the race to deduce what their fuel windows are. Because it's such a long and winding course, taking about 78 seconds to get around even in qualifying trim, the objective is to get within your fuel window first and hit pit road. That way you are out front and in the catbird seat when all the stops cycle around. If you can get your final stop done first and have the necessary fuel to go the distance, that's definitely the enviable position to be in. The number of tires you get rarely ever comes into play there. It's always four tires and fuel, with the emphasis placed on fuel...packing in all you can."
FUEL MILEAGE: "Man, do we know by experience about how fuel mileage can be critical on that track. We won the pole out there in '06 and pulled out a top-five finish because our pit strategy and fuel mileage worked in our favor. But we've had our fair share of experiencing things from the other end, too. We had a strong top-10 run going in the '07 race, but had to pit again at the end for fuel and dropped way back (to finish 22nd). We got bitten by both strategy and fuel mileage in that one. Not only do you have to look at your fuel mileage in calculating your fuel window, you have to consider how many caution laps you may run and fit that into the equation. In that particular race, we ran something like the final 40 laps without a caution. We'd gambled on getting a couple of more cautions and, unlike what the situation usually is, they just didn't come in that race."
This weekend's Infineon Raceway action gets under way on Friday with practice set from noon till 1:30 p.m.