Sonoma: GM Racing preview

TEAM CHEVY AT INFINEON RACEWAY -- ALBA COLON, GM RACING NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES PROGRAM MANAGER: "Infineon Raceway is the first of two road courses on the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup tour and it's always fun to go to Sonoma. We will visit Watkins...

TEAM CHEVY AT INFINEON RACEWAY -- ALBA COLON, GM RACING NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES PROGRAM MANAGER: "Infineon Raceway is the first of two road courses on the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup tour and it's always fun to go to Sonoma. We will visit Watkins Glen International in August, and both tracks offer their own unique set of challenges. The racing is always exciting.

"Of the two, Infineon is more technical with its tight turns and significant elevation changes. It's really hard to pass on this track and the cars need to handle well. Running up and down through the gears all day places stresses on drivelines that aren't seen on the oval tracks. Our GM Racing engineers have been working with all the Chevrolet teams on driveline projects and different set-ups. We help to identify and evaluate driveline components that will give them the best possible durability and performance under road racing conditions

"Pit stops and pit strategy are always key everywhere, but are really important at Infineon. Crew chiefs and drivers need to plan well ahead in order to be near the front in the end to have a chance at the win. And on this road course, you not only have to be good, but you really have to keep yourself out of trouble. And, it also pays to be lucky!

"Team Chevy has an outstanding record at Infineon Raceway and is the best in the business at having all the elements it takes to succeed. This year, we welcome Jan Magnusen who will be behind the wheel of the No. 09 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. It's always fun to have one of our Chevy Corvette members come over to the Cup side.

Racing at Sonoma is always a treat, both on and off the track, and I'm looking forward to Chevrolet making another trip to victory lane this weekend."

TEAM CHEVY FROM THE DRIVER'S SEAT:

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL CHEVROLET -- POINT STANDINGS LEADER: "I grew up racing go karts on a road course. From the time I was five years old until I was 16, I was racing on road courses. When I got to stock cars, the biggest thing I had to get used to was shifting. But road course racing was all I ever did, so it comes natural to me. Racing on ovals was kind of the second stage of my career. Infineon is such a unique animal. You need to qualify as well as you can, and it typically comes down to stragey. Your car has to be fast. But last year was the first time in a long time where fresh tires actually meant more than track position. Track position was still important, but tires overcame a lot of track position because of the large fall off on tires. I think that's good, because it takes a lot of that fuel mileage stuff out the window. We ran really well there last year, and I hit the tires in turn 11 and ripped the right-front suspension off the car. We have run well there pretty much every year."

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET -- 6TH IN STANDINGS: "It would mean a lot. Man, every year, since the start of the No. 48 team, we've tested more for road courses than any other specific race track. I continue to run the Grand Am series when I can to help. I feel like last year, we were close. We tend to qualify well, but fade in the race some and last year was kind of the reverse of that. We qualified decent and had some troubles early in the race but rebounded and came through and ended up fourth. I have a lot of confidence but at the same time, after eight years of trying, I'm hopeful we have overturned a stone that we have missed in the past. I don't think we have forgotten any area or missed something, but we'll go out and give it a shot and see what we can do and I am ready mentally, physically and we did some testing. I think we found a couple of small things that will bring speed to the cars."

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET -- 7TH IN STANDINGS: "With the success we've had here, this is an event we always look forward to. And it's always a fun weekend because I have so many family and friends in the area. The track is one where you have to be aggressive, yet be smooth. And you really have to 'get after' some of the corners while not overdriving them. The green-white-checkered rule changes the way we race every event. But it only changes it in a way where it just intensifies things and makes you focus on your transmission and restarts and inside and outside lane if you're the leader and picking some things like that. Other than that, you can't have a real set plan. You go into every one of them going okay, I'm going to get the best restart I can and I'm going to go wherever the guy in front of me isn't."

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET -- 8TH IN STANDINGS: "Infineon Raceway is really small. If you look at our cars that weight as much as they do, and make as much power as they do, Infineon is a really, really small race track -- not in length, but in the way the corners are built. When people talk about it being technical, it's about being precise. And, when you're not precise and you don't hit your marks exactly, you lose a lot of time. The reality of it is almost every race track is technical. Some are more technical than others. The restarts at Infineon are kind of crazy. But, I will tell you that I think the double-file restarts make the restarts more tame there. It puts people going up the hill more at a constant speed. For us, in particular, we've run well on the road courses, but our finishes have been horrible. We have to find a way to have much better finishes at Infineon, starting this weekend. That's something that we've certainly been thinking about since last year. We feel really good going there and that we'll have a good shot. The thing you have to remember is that while you're trying to pass the guy in front of you, the guy behind you is trying to pass you. And, every place that you're trying to make a pass on someone, it's the same place that someone is trying to make a pass on you. That's why there are a lot of wrecks there. There are specific points on the track that work the best so everyone is aggressive during those points."

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET, 11TH IN STANDINGS: "I just like the road courses. I've always liked Sonoma. It's really a driver's track. It's tough to make your car drive perfect all day. You can have a really good car, but it's going to slide around and you're going to struggle for grip, and that's what makes it so fun. You have to do the work behind the steering wheel. Last year with the double-file restarts there were definitely times when you wanted to be on one side or the other. One restart you'd be in the wrong line and it'd hurt you, but the next time you'd be on the side you wanted and it would help you, so I think it added a lot of excitement. It made it fun for us drivers, because instead of being 20th and 20 rows back, you're 20th and only 10 rows back and you've got a shot and could make a run at the leader."

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET -- 12TH IN STANDINGS: "Infineon is a very demanding course and a demanding race. I think it's difficult for all oval racers. I hadn't been out there for three years until last season, and we struggled a bit. We didn't qualify like I wanted to, and then, halfway through the race, we got caught up in an accident with Matt (Kenseth). Our rear axle was bent, and we couldn't do much with it. Ended up with a much worse finish than we deserved, for sure. This team, all of Hendrick Motorsports, has put a lot of emphasis on its road course program since last season. I'm anxious to get on the track and put it to use. Back when I first started racing, no one seemed to take the road course races too seriously. It was almost like a couple of weekends that you just 'got through.' But today, all the teams take it very, very seriously. You can't afford to have even one off day. The series is a lot more competitive now, and everyone's more on their game. Back in the '90s, only about half as many teams were as competitive on road courses as there are now."

CLINT BOWYER, NO. 31 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET -- 13TH IN STANDINGS: "We are excited about heading back to Infineon. I've had two fourth-place finishes and an eight-place finish the last three times we've raced there. It's been a good race track for us and we've had a lot of good fortune on that track. It always comes down to fuel mileage. We've been able to play out the right strategy and maintain our track positions all day to put ourselves in a position for a solid finish. I love Sonoma. It's a fun race track. It's also a challenging race track, but we're looking to have another strong run this time around. I like the rhythm of the race track. I've been able to find that rhythm while driving there. Sometimes, finding that rhythm is hard to do at a road course, but I've been able to find a good pace at Sonoma. I believe that's why we've been able to run well there each season. Sonoma can be challenging at times, but it's just a fun race track. The guy that makes the fewest mistakes usually prevails there. There is nothing more fun than being at a track where that is the case. You see a guy in front of you slipping and sliding and you're laughing. Then, you get by him and, next thing you know, you slip and slide and he gets back around you. You're like, 'oh man!' But, it's a blast! That is what makes the racing there so much fun. It's that competitive part of it that you can't beat."

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET -- 14TH IN STANDINGS: "The team has done a lot of testing so hopefully we'll see the results on the track. We had a good run last year but got wrecked there at the end. I'd like to get a top-10 at Sonoma, and we've been close. Road racing is out of my element but I enjoy it."

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET - 15TH IN STANDINGS: "It's the first time we get to run a road course and, typically, there's a different type of cream that rises to the top there. I enjoy it. I enjoy hustling the racecar around the track, and Infineon's a good road course. Personally, I enjoy Watkins Glen a bit more, but I enjoy them both and I look forward to racing out there. It's a big track-position race, and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there. But it's the same for everybody. In road-course racing, the driver, in my mind, can make up more than he can at an oval just being able to hustle a car. You have the added mannerism, I guess you could say, of braking. When you brake at short tracks, it's not the same as when you brake and downshift. So you have to be a smooth downshifter, you have to be a good braker. Obviously, you have to turn right. There are extra characteristics I guess you have to include at road courses that you don't have to include at ovals. That separates the men from the boys, typically. I have always enjoyed road racing. I have really enjoyed hustling the car around the racetrack. I think it's a lot of fun in Sonoma and at Watkins Glen. We've had great races at Sonoma, but it seems to be typical to come down to fuel mileage, which is a little bit crazy and not the best way to race, in my opinion. From a driver's standpoint, you just want to hustle the car as hard as you can and not have to worry about shutting the car off during yellow flags to be able to save fuel. That is just not as much a fun type of racing. But it is what it is and I look forward to it. We had a really good test. We went to VIR (Virginia International Raceway in Alton) back in May, and the car felt really, really good."

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD'S CHEVROLET -- 18TH IN STANDINGS: "I think the biggest challenge at road courses like Infineon is that you really have to make sure that you don't overdrive your car. With all the tight turns, and fighting your way through the narrow turns to make passes, it becomes pretty easy for drivers to overdrive their racecars and that can really put you at a disadvantage during the race. You need a good handling car to be successful at Infineon, and you also need to just run a smart race. Fuel mileage will be important this weekend as well because those who can conserve fuel, and make it until the end of the race, really do have a shot at winning there."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET -- 20TH IN STANDINGS: "Infineon Raceway is a cool track. I actually did my driving school there in 1992. On TV you don't see all the inclinations -- uphill and downhill. You forget how much up the hill you go into turn one and turn two. Fuel strategy is always a key factor at the end of this race. My knowledge of what to expect from the car, and how far you can go with the car before it goes out of control, is a lot bigger on a road course than an oval. When it's your day, it doesn't matter where you start even on a road course."

BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 71 TRG MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET -- 32ND IN STANDINGS: Sonoma is a lot different than Watkins Glen. Sonoma has really tight, slow corners and a lot more finesse because of there are more corners. There are a lot of mistakes to be made at Sonoma. Here there are more passing zones and the run off areas are greater."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Phoenix Racing