Go Fast, Turn Left....and Right, and Left - NASCAR goes Road Racing
Oddly enough, many NASCAR fans have been very vocal about their dislike of road courses, but recently more and more is being said about having more road courses (Montreal? Mexico?) and having at least one road course in the Chase. And although this make shock some of you people who have been reading my thoughts for a few years, I'm in agreement.
This weekend we aren't yet in the Chase, so we will have our share of "ringers" in the race. Ringers are those drivers who have proven excellence in any car at the road courses. We'll likely see Brian Simo, Boris Said, and Ron Fellows. We'll also see Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya. Marcos and JPM have raced in other series and both have proven their excellence at the road courses, so they are considered "the ones to watch". Unfortunately, a reputation doesn't necessarily mean wins.
If you google Sonoma Raceway, or Infineon Raceway, Wikipedia pops up and what name is listed more than any other? Jeff Gordon.
Jeff is now the only Hendrick Motorsports driver without a win in 2012. Remember, I said that Jeff is having one of those "what else can possibly go wrong?" seasons. He is determined to work through that. Jeff does not want to be the only HMS driver to be winless at the end of the regular season, and seriously, this is the place where he really can do it. Most wins, most top 5's, most top tens, most poles and most laps led are Jeff's record holding titles at Sonoma. He won there last year, and finished second in the other race. But, I go back to that "what can possibly go wrong?" question. I know the huge crash Jeff had with Sam Hornish Jr was at Watkins Glen, but with the season Jeff has had, one has to wonder if the only luck Jeff will have this year will be bad luck.
Of course, he isn't the only driver in the field, and I've already mentioned the momentum Dale Jr has coming into this race. He knew, a few years ago, that his skill on the road courses left a little to be desired. So Dale Jr called up Boris Said and asked him for some tips and tricks on driving at the road courses. He may not like racing on road courses, but he actually doesn't totally suck at it. No, he doesn't have wins, but he has those consistent finishes that have gotten him to second in points in the current standings.
Then there is Tony Stewart. Do I really have to offer his statistics? Okay, well, he has five wins at Watkins Glen and two at Sonoma, so winning this weekend is something we could definitely see.
It could be any of these drivers. It could be a road ringer. It could be another first time winner. Oh to have a crystal ball.
You know, usually I wait to see practices before I pick my winner for the race, but this week I don't care how anyone practices. I truly believe that winning at Michigan has put a spring in the step of the entire 88 team. They have been working so hard for so long and finally all that hard work paid off. I can only believe that the momentum from that win and the desire to win the Championship will fuel the entire team. I pick Dale Jr to win this weekend at Infineon.