This week: The Toyota/Save Mart 350
Location: Infineon Raceway (Sonoma, CA)
Distance: 350 k/110 laps
2007 winner: J. Montoya
Infineon (formally known as Sears Point) is located in Sonoma, which is the epicenter of the American-wine world. (The irony of perhaps the biggest beer-swilling, unrefined sport in the world invading wine and cheese country is noted. Here.) As counter intuitive as it seems, a few big names on the NASCAR scene are involved in the wine world. Jeff Gordon has his own wine label. Gordon Wine options include a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, whatever the hell that means. Richard Childress has a full blown wine empire with his own winery, extensive bottle options, and impressive collection of jams and jellies ($8.95 for the options to the left). Though more known for his exploits in the Indy Car and Formula 1 worlds, 1967 Daytona 500 winner Mario Andretti has quite the wine conglomerate himself. Like any self-respecting (we mean stereotypical) Italian-American, Mario has a full list of wine-pasta pairings for visitors to his Napa vineyards. We recommend the the Estate Reserve Chardonnay with a full bowl of macaroni noodle-o's. Bada. Bing.
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*What to know:
Qualify to win: You can't win this race without starting near the front. The crack team at Jayski told us that the winner of this event has started from inside the top-10 78% of the time. That would equate to 15 of 19 Infineon races. Sure, one year ago Juan Montoya won this event from the 32rd starting position, but that was a fuel mileage thing. He should have run out of gas with about three laps to go, but didn't. It was weird. That is called an outlier. This year's winner will come from inside the top-10 qualifiers.
Roadies: Whenever NASCAR does the road course thing, a host of "road racing aces" are employed to show their stuff. Often times, a team will make a one-off appearance at these events with the hopes their hot shoe can pull off a miracle and beat the likes of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. This never happens. So don't expect Brian Simo to win on Sunday. The other side of deal is when a full time team sits their normal driver for the weekend and brings in an "ace" to fill his spot. These teams can win. They have the experience of racing every weekend with the Car of Tomorrow and their crew should be polished in the pits. Add a fuckin' quick driver to that equation and good things can happen. Example (though the Wood Brother's race almost every weekend in Cup, you get the point): Marcos Ambros takes over the Wood Brothers Racing #21 this weekend. Good team + good driver= good results.
*Who to watch:
Kasey Kahne: Historically awful at road courses. Like, really bad. He has never had a top-10 on a road course, yet somehow is starting from the pole this weekend. Momentum is something that Kahne has. Two wins this season, with two straight top-three runs to boot. Dodge appears to be fast at Sonoma, with four of the top-six starters all grabbing life by the horns. If Kahne doesn't toss the thing into the sand trap on lap-one, he should be a factor.
*For those heading to the track:
Pertinent tailgating information is here. Be warned: No alcohol may be brought into the facility. Beer is available for purchase at several locations throughout the raceway. Hopefully you knew this before heading to the track. Holy shit, that's lame. Since you can't byo, maybe you should pass on booze altogether (?!) and hit up the karting facility at Infineon. You can pretend to be Tony Stewart, only without the beard or gut. Or with the beard and gut, you know, depending on body size and lifestyle choices.
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|