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Last Updated Monday, Jun 28, 2010 1:53 am, EDT

Toyota/Save Mart 350

Status: Final Infineon Raceway

Race Capsule

Sonoma Raceway
  • What:

    Race 16 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, CA

  • When:

    June 20, 2010 3:19 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    110

  • Track Length:

    1.99 miles

  • Race Length:

    219.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,520,395

Drivers to Watch

Kasey Kahne Kahne is the defending race champion. "It was definitely a surprise last year, but we felt really strong the whole race," he said of his first win on a road course. "Hopefully we can unload similar this year. I have always liked Sonoma, even when I didn't run well there. I definitely feel confident going out there this time."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson, who remains sixth in the standings and is 170 points out, has never won at Infineon and has just two top-five and three top-10 finishes in eight starts there. One of those was his fourth-place finish last year -- his first top-five since 2004. "Man, every year, since the start of the No. 48 team, we've tested more for road courses than any other specific race track," Johnson said. "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."
Kurt Busch The second Busch in the top four, Kurt Busch gained one position in the standings and is 118 out of first place. Busch is another driver who has not won at Infineon, but he does have three top-five finishes (but no other top-10s) in nine starts. He was 15th last year and has not finished in the top 10 in his last three Sonoma starts. "I've really enjoyed the road courses -- those races are so different from what we normally face week in and week out," Busch said. "I jokingly say quite often that it's like having a weekend off because we are so used to turning left and here we are out there making left and right turns and shifting gears. It's really a great change to break up all the oval tracks that we race on. It's like a unique race that we always run in reverse. You always focus on when you can make it with your fuel window and go with that strategy, and that's what usually plays out at the end. Teams are getting smarter and everybody that's building these cars can build good road-course cars these days, and it helps the regulars in the series do well. The road-course 'ringers,' they're a good challenge. It's fresh and unique for a weekend, but in the end you're going to see more times than not the guys that are on the schedule week in and week out -- the regulars -- are going to have more success."
Kevin Harvick Harvick remains first in the standings, but his lead has been chopped to just 22 points heading to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., where he has never won and has just two top-five and two-top 10 finishes in nine starts. He was 29th last year and 30th in 2009 but was second in 2007. That is his only top-10 finish in the last six Infineon starts. "I grew up racing go-karts on a road course," Harvick said. "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 strategy. 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 falloff 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."
Jeff Gordon Gordon is another driver who held his position in the standings. He is 182 out of the lead. Gordon has been amazing at Infineon -- five wins, 10 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 17 starts. His victories came in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2006. He was ninth last year. "With the success we've had here, this is an event we always look forward to," Gordon said. "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, 'OK, 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.'"
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished a career-best third at Infineon last year. "I'll be breathing a little easier this weekend knowing that it's (road racing) is my forte," said Ambrose. "It's what I've grown up doing. I should have as good a chance of any of running at the front."
Tony Stewart Stewart has two wins and seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Infineon, including two second-place finishes. "I just like the road courses," said Stewart. "I've always liked Sonoma. It's really a drivers' track. 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 much fun."
Greg Biffle Biffle climbed one position in the standings and is 304 out of first place. Biffle has just two top-five and no other top-10 finishes in seven Infineon starts. He was 28th last year. His top-fives came in 2006 and 2007. "I like road-course racing," Biffle said. "It breaks up the season a little. We have had top-five finishes at Infineon and I think it's reasonable to shoot for a top-10 finish this weekend. There are a few drivers in this series who have a lot of road-course experience, and if I can just hold my own with them and get out of there with a top-10 or top-five finish, I think that would be a reasonable expectation."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Infineon. His best finish in four starts at the road course is 15th. Truex said he feels much more confident this weekend after testing with Marcos Ambrose last month. "Marcos has been really good on the road courses -- it's amazing how fast he can go around those places," Truex said.
Mark Martin Martin has one win, seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 19 starts at Infineon. "Infineon is a very demanding course and a demanding race," said Martin. "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. This team, all of Hendrick Motorsports, has put a lot of emphasis on its road-course program since last year."
Ryan Newman Newman has five top-10 finishes in eight starts at Infineon. "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," said Newman. "You also have the added mannerism, I guess you could say, of braking. You have to be a good braker."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya has one win and three top-six finishes in three starts at Infineon. "I actually did my driving school there in 1992," said Montoya. "On TV, you don't see all the (inclines) -- uphill and downhill. 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."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger finished seventh last year at Infineon for his best career finish at the road course. "Last year was really the first year that I had a good car there, and we ran really well," said Allmendinger. "I am looking forward to going back with great race cars now and really competing."
Paul Menard Menard finished 21st a year ago at Infineon for his best finish in two starts at the road course. Menard said he is "looking forward to a weekend of road-course racing." Saturday, he will fly to Elkhart Lake, Wis., for the Nationwide Series event at the famed Road America course.
Carl Edwards Edwards, who dropped one position in the standings and is 313 points out of the lead, is another driver looking for road-course success. He has never finished in the top five and has just two top-10 finishes in five Sonoma starts. He was 13th last year. Despite his lack of success, Edwards believes the team has been successful in the past. "Infineon is one of our best race tracks performance-wise," he said. "We've run really well there. Last year I got a road-course win in the Nationwide Series at Montreal, and a road-course win on the Cup side is one of my career goals. To me that would be very gratifying considering how terrible I was when I started road racing. We finished third at Watkins Glen in our last road-course race, and hopefully we can have a good run in Sonoma. I love racing there, and I love the area. It's a drivers' race track, and I like it a lot."
Joey Logano Logano finished 19th last year in his Sprint Cup debut at Infineon. "To me, Sonoma is almost like a short track," said Logano. "There's a lot of beating and banging, and the speeds never get really high. Having forward drive is key because there are some really tight, slow turns, and it's important to get off them well."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer will be seeking his fourth straight top-10 finish at Infineon. "I like the rhythm of the race track," said Bowyer. "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. The confidence you have breeds more success there."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Infineon. His best finish in 10 starts at the road course is 11th, which he has done twice. Maybe that is why he joked he was going to bring "a case of dynamite" to the track this weekend "so we can blow that place up." On a more serious note, Earnhardt spent last month testing the car he will be drive at Carolinas Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C.
Jamie McMurray McMurray finished second in the 2004 race at Infineon, but that is his only top-10 finish in seven starts at the 1.99-mile road course. McMurray will be racing a new car this weekend, one he tested at Virginia International Raceway. "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," he said.
Kyle Busch Busch, still second in the standings, won at Infineon in 2008, but that is his only top-five finish there. He has one other top-10 in five starts and was 22nd last year. "I love road racing because it's almost like an off weekend to me," Busch said. "You get a chance to turn right and left and be kind of crazy. You try not to go off course, but it does happen and you get a chance to rebound as quickly and smoothly as you can. For me, it's just a matter of going out there and relaxing and being as patient as I can be behind the wheel of the car. Sometimes, driving it hard isn't the smoothest way around. You just try your best to get through the corners smoothly without losing your momentum. I was able to learn that in a short time period. But even I would admit that I didn't think I could win both road-course races."
Jeff Burton Burton remains eighth and is 224 back of first. Burton has never won at Sonoma and has just one top-five and five top-10 finishes in 16 starts there. He was 34th last year. "Infineon Raceway is really small," Burton said. "If you look at our cars that weigh 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."
David Reutimann Reutimann finished 31st a year ago at Infineon for his best finish in two starts at the road course. Reutimann is the first to admit that he struggles when it comes to road racing, but he hopes having Marcos Ambrose as his unofficial teammate this weekend will help him overcome his road-course anxieties. "I plan to pick his brain," Reutimann said.
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has dropped one spot in the standings and is 150 out of the lead. Kenseth has no wins, no top-fives and only one top-10 finish in 10 starts at Sonoma. He was 18th last year -- 10 positions lower than he finished in 2008. "The key to being successful at road courses like Sonoma is track position," Kenseth said. "We need to have a good qualifying effort on Friday, and we've actually been OK with our qualifying efforts at the road courses in the past. For a long time I really dreaded the road-course races, but I've learned that the more you do it, the more comfortable you become with racing at tracks like Sonoma. I think with the experience I've gotten over the years, I have a much better feel for that type of racing. So I'm looking forward to building on our road-course experience this week."
David Ragan Ragan has not fared well at Infineon -- his best finish in three starts at the road course is 24th. "I went out there and tested last week, so hopefully that will help," said Ragan. "Plus I've got a lot of faith in Donnie (Wingo, the crew chief) at Sonoma; he's had some success out there in the past."