Tag:Infineon Raceway
Posted on: March 7, 2012 7:22 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 8:34 am

Name change coming for Infineon Raceway

By Pete Pistone

Speedway Motorsports Inc. will need to find a replacement title sponsor for Infineon Raceway.

Sports Business Journal reports Infineon Technologies has decided to end its sponsorship of the Sonoma, California road course.

The 10-year deal reportedly worth $34.4 million expires in May and the copany has indicated it will not renew.

Vice president for marketing and communications John Cardinale told the publication that the speedway has several companies interested in assuming the naming rights. "There are three or four companies we're talking to," he said. "I wouldn't say they're ready to sign, but they're certainly interested."

Before the title sponsorship the track was known as Sears Point Raceway, which it will more than likely revert to until a new sponsor is found.

It marks the second SMI property that has lost a title sponsor in recent years with Lowe's ending its naming rights deal with Charlotte Motor Speedway a few years ago.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: June 28, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 5:18 pm

Idle Thoughts: Road racing, not road rage

By Pete Pistone

  Brian Vickers, Driver Of The #83 Red Bull Toyota, Drives
(A number of cars looked like Brian Vickers' damaged Toyota after Sunday's race in Sonoma - Getty Images)

There are three main reasons why Sprint Cup Series road course racing and evolved from a sedate single file parade into the most aggressive form of competition on the schedule: 

The introduction of double file restarts two years ago changed the complexion of every race but none so dramatic as the two road course visits each season. Drivers now find themselves side-by-side with one another when the green flag reappears after caution and are forced to take the opportunity and battle tooth and nail for every inch of real estate. It’s ramped up the intensity level to nearly off the chart levels and in the process led to some of the most emotional outbursts the sport has seen in some time. 

The next generation Sprint Cup car is much more durable than its predecessor and can sustain greater damage than the old model. There not quite tanks as some of the road racing interlopers have called them but today’s NASCAR stock car can withstand a ton of impact and yet survive. It more than likely leads some drivers to feel a bit more confident about being able to rebound from contact with another car or even a guardrail or tire barrier when making a move during a heated road racing moment.

NASCAR’s “Boys Have at It” mantra has given drivers pretty much free rein to hand out justice however they seem fit. Since the policy went into effect the line between what’s accepted behavior on the racetrack and what’s out of bounds hasn’t been blurred but rather obliterated. 

Without fear of retribution from the sanctioning body, more and more drivers feel obliged to take out their frustrations on fellow competitors who may have laid a fender to them or made contact while fighting for position. The tight quarters of road courses like Infineon Raceway provide more than enough opportunity to get physical and aggressive. 

Judging from Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 this at times hostile style of road racing isn’t going away anytime soon. 

But has it gone too far? Do fans really want to see a game of high-speed demolition derby or is actual racing for position the object of their affection? 

The difference between Saturday’s Nationwide Series road race at the picturesque Road America circuit and the Sprint Cup headliner in Sonoma was startling. 

The Nationwide Series race did feature aggressive driving at times to be sure. But overall there was more a style of fierce competition and battling for position than there was the constant paybacks and revenge that punctuated the Cup affair. 

There were drivers aggravated with one another when the checkered flag finally flew in Wisconsin Saturday after the bizarre overtime finish. But aside from Max Papis desperately trying to get his destroyed car back on track for what appeared to be the sole purpose of taking out Jacques Villeneuve in the aftermath of their dust-up, the vengeance factor wasn’t that high. 

Fast forward to Northern California where the Sprint Cup guys seemed to start the race in a bad mood. Tony Stewart vs. Brian Vickers, Robby Gordon vs. Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya vs. the field……there was no shortage of feuds taking center stage in Sonoma. 

Drivers showing extreme emotion and passion are wonderful things and an element many fans believe had been missing from the sport for awhile. 

However there’s a limit and when constant paybacks and a “wreck ‘em if you can’t race ‘em” mentality becomes the show it cheapens the race in my opinion. 

I actually enjoyed the Nationwide road race more than I did the Sprint Cup event, which became a bit tiresome after awhile with all the motorized roller derby antics. 

It’s undeniable that road course racing in NASCAR has become more interesting in the last two years. However the over the top way it’s currently heading has the potential to make the top level of stock car racing’s pair of road races a season tedious for other reasons.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: June 27, 2011 11:37 am

Around the circuit: weekend web wrap-up

Posted by Pete Pistone

News, notes and nuggets from around the World Wide Web after a weekend of NASCAR road racing at Infineon Raceway and Road America:

SACRAMENTO BEE - "NASCAR Drivers Take Advantage of Relaxed Stance at Settling Scores"

NASCAR INSIDERS - "Mayhem and Paybacks Rule the Weekend"

SCENE DAILY.COM - "Rough and Tumble Racing at Infineon Raceway Now the Norm"

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL - "Sorenson Emerges Victorious in Bucyrus 200" 

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER - "What's a Road race without Road Rage?"


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Posted on: June 27, 2011 11:25 am

Video of the Day: Tony Stewart vs. Brian Vickers

Posted by Pete Pistone

Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers were involved in just one of the incidents that punctuated Sunday's Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway:

Posted on: June 26, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 9:43 pm

Kurt Busch, Steve Addington post Sonoma comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

THE MODERATOR:  Now joining us in the press conference room is Kurt Busch.  This is Kurt's 23rd victory in 380 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts.  This is his first victory and ninth top-10 finish in 2011.  Last win came in May of 2010 at Charlotte.  This breaks a 38-race winless streak.           

Kurt, talk about your domination out there today.           

KURT BUSCH:  Thank you.  It was one of those unbelievable days where having a game plan going in, we weren't questioning it, it was just old school on how we were going to make it on two stops.  With the pace dropping off like we saw it in practice, it was going to take one of those perfect efforts to make sure we maintained our lap time throughout the run to be able to make it on the stops and not worry about tires as well as the fuel strategy side of it.           

It was great calculations by the guys.  Saving fuel is one thing, but having Shell on the hood is another.  When you have those good omens, it's great we were able to put the solid effort together in the pits, in the strategy department and out on the racetrack as well.           

The car, it drove itself.  I have all my guys to thank.  Anybody that watched the race today, hopefully they're inspired by what they saw out of a Dodge Charger to go to the showroom floor and check out their SRT8 models.           

THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions.            

Q.  You didn't pit for a long time at the start.  31 laps before you did.  Did you have a number and goal on that or did it just play out during the early part of the race?           

KURT BUSCH:  No, we had a goal.  Our fuel strategy from practice gave us the calculations we needed.  It showed that we could make it on two stops.  A lot of guys said that they couldn't make it on two stops.  So we knew that there was going to be teams pitting around lap 10, lap 15 to get those fresher tires.           

So my thought was inside the car, Well, I need to continue to push this car hard and run a lap time that won't allow those guys with fresh tires to chop off and be able to catch us.           

It was just one of those feelings where the crew was helping me, I was helping them, and the race played out perfectly for us.            

Q.  When we were here on Friday I asked you what was going to be the reasons that you won if you won.  Were those reasons the same two days later?           

KURT BUSCH:  Are you going to give me a hint on what I said?  I'll try to answer it.           

It's a combination of having the right strategy, of course, and having that forward drive coming off the corner.  I think usually, though, my thought process is to protect the racecar, not get into those big fender rubs or into the side of other people's doors and have that damage.           

Ultimately you have to protect the racecar and have that speed, then of course the right strategy.  My crew gave me that today.            

Q.  After last year's finish here and Jeff Gordon not apologizing, is winning the best revenge?           

KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, and to see him finish second was a definite boost at the end of the day, to see him come in second, and come out on top.  To beat him, he's one of the best, he always will be.  To get a good road course win, it's a big check mark on my list, something I've been working very hard at over the years, just like the restrictor plates, I've struggled to win and close out one of those.           

So it's just really neat to bring home that W, and most of all have that insurance package now.  We have that win heading towards the Chase.  We bumped up to fourth in points.  Again, it's a great day for our sponsors, for Shell, Pennzoil, Dodge, it was a great day.  If you have a Shell saver card you now save 22 cents a gallon on Wednesday.  So everybody needs to go fill up on Wednesday.            

Q.  You mentioned your crew, the fuel strategy.  What was the best thing about the car that got you around the track to win by so much?           

KURT BUSCH:  I think the best thing about the car was that it would allow me to do everything at an A level.  There's times when you can be A plus on forward drive off or on your gear ratios for saving mileage, then you would have to save on overall speed for your speed ratios.  Then you have the turn left, turn right.  My car gave me the ability to do all areas very well.           

THE MODERATOR:  We also welcome Steve Addington, crew chief.  Talk a little bit about your strategy today coming into this road course.           

STEVE ADDINGTON:  We stuck to it.  We had a game plan.  Kurt said he was going to try to get a couple of positions there at the start, gain a couple positions.  I was thinking, Okay, if we start 11th, we'll get to 7th or 8th.  Drove by, took the lead.  That made it easier on me and my guys to make a decision.  We felt like we had the speed in our car to go to our lap.  Didn't matter what everybody else was doing.  We were paying attention to what was going on, but we didn't vary from what we had planned.  That worked out the best for me in road course races, is to hit those laps we had planned.           

THE MODERATOR:  We'll continue with questions for Steve or Kurt.            

Q.  Friday I asked you to give your team a grade.  You said it was B plus to low A in most areas.  Does today's domination change your assessment to where you are at?           

KURT BUSCH:  We've been on a great run these last few weeks.  To bring it on home and get a W, yeah, there's that insurance with the win.  We bumped up in points.  It's a matter of just continuing each week to get better.  This is a stretch of our season where we hit a road course, a superspeedway, a mile-and-a-half.  We're all over the map.  Then we go to a flat one-mile track up in Loudon, New Hampshire, which is part of the Chase.  These next few weeks, you have to show your versatility if you want to be a frontrunner towards the Chase.            

Q.  Kurt, did you see any of the chaos going on around you?  What did you think of Tony Stewart's incident with Vickers, how he ended up?           

KURT BUSCH:  That's funny, I only get to see out my rear windshield.  That's the only view I get on a racer.  You get to see some replays on the Sprint Vision.  I didn't get to see what's been going on.  I've been part of that chaos in the back over the years.  I've been hit by guys going fourth or fifth.  Gives you a flat tire, you come home 32nd.           

To have a car like we did today, I had to protect it, bring it home for a good points day and wanted to get that revenge of a win over those guys.  To beat a guy like Jeff Gordon today, it's that much sweeter.            

Q.  Your teammate said you took him around the track on Friday, helped him out.  He came home with a top 10 today as well.  Talk about the level of teamwork that you have now at Penske.  You were close at Watkins Glen last year.  When did it start to feel solid on road courses for you?           

KURT BUSCH:  It's a good feeling to know that the two teams are working as closely together as they ever have.  Knowing that Brad is definitely maturing, seeing him bust off a top 10 at a road course is great.           

He went around the racetrack.  I pointed out some of the apex points, exit points, shifting points.  He absorbed it like a sponge.  That's what it takes as a veteran of the team to help the kid that's coming up through and to have his information help us.  That's exactly what's helped both teams get stronger.           

Steve can jump in and say how the crew chiefs are working together.  The guys back at the shop are slapping me, giving me high-fives.  Since we turned things around, it's been great.           

STEVE ADDINGTON:  Paul has great ideas.  We sit down in each other's offices for long periods of time and talk about the direction we need to go in.  We go to lunch every single day except maybe one of the week and we talk about what direction we need to work in, what we need to work on, to make it better.  You have to push for stuff.  You go in there with a list that's this long, you have to pick out the major hitters to what we need to go fast right now.           

That's what we've done.  It's great to have a guy over there that is a racer, just wants to make our racecars better along with me.  That's been the big key, is we push for things that we need to go fast right now.            

Q.  Kurt, talk a little bit more about that retribution, how NASCAR has said to the drivers to settle it on the course.  Have you had a scrum with somebody so far this season and how did you settle it?           

KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, I mean, it's great that you don't have to look over your shoulder and have NASCAR come down on you with a big fine or a penalty when you want to rough it up on the track.           

This sport was based off of guys roughing each other up.  That's that good old short-track racing that we see, the good old door slamming, bumper to bumper.  It's the heritage of our sport.  Times had gotten interesting in the '90s and 2000s on driver etiquette, what you had to do to race.  I'm an old school kind of guy.  I laugh and joke with my friends saying, I should have grew up in the '80s, I would have been a much better guy, because I'm not politically correct.            

Q.  You ran here a lot early in your career, southwest races.  Did that history make today even more meaningful for you and was there a time back in those days when you could have pictured yourself winning a Sprint Cup race on this track?           

KURT BUSCH:  Thank you for asking me that question.  I love the grass-roots racing, and the way that Infineon has supported that.  Back in the days when I ran the Southwest Tour race, that is the Saturday support race.  Teams and crew chiefs and driver/owners are watching to see what's going on out on the track, who is passing where.  I raced here '98, placed third, won it in '99.           

I always knew I could win on a road course.  It took me a few years to get it together on the Cup side.  Even in 2002 I might have had a top-five finish when I was with Roush Racing early on.  I've always loved road racing.  I've just struggled to put it together at the end of the race, whether it's run-ins with other drivers or running out of fuel.  But I've even had the chance to stand on the podium at Daytona during the Grand American Rolex Series 24-Hour race.  I love road racing.  It's fun.  I've done drag racing.  I definitely want to stick with the NASCAR side of it as long as I can.           

Q.  You've said it was especially sweet to beat Jeff Gordon today.  Getting back to that race last year, he apologized to several people for his actions during the race last year but not to you.  He said today that he didn't feel he owed you an apology because you had run him off the track on a restart.  Is that your recollection of that, too?           

KURT BUSCH:  Not at all.            

Q.  What was your recollection of that?           

KURT BUSCH:  My recollection was a flat right rear tire.  I have an in-car camera from somebody else that proves he drove straight through us.  That's last year.  We got him back at Martinsville in October.  It wasn't my normal style to pay somebody back like that.  I just usually race somebody a lot harder when they step over the line.  Him and I have always had a great relationship where we're genuine racers with each other.  I respect him.  He's third on our all-time list.  He's a four-time champion.  I'm not going to get sideways with a guy like that but I'm going to let him know he can't walk all over me.            

Q.  Can you describe what it's like to go across the finish line.  We can only imagine what you're feeling.           

KURT BUSCH:  It's a great sense of satisfaction.  All the hard work from the guys back at the race shop where it starts.  The times that we've tested.  The execution here at the racetrack this weekend.  You see it all come together.  You know when you have a shot at victory you have to block those moments out and get that car to the victory line.  To get the checkered flag, do some doughnuts, to drive in reverse around this road course, I got choked up.  It was a great feeling to know that I've won on a road course.            

Q.  Were you surprised that Jeff came to Victory Lane to congratulate you?  When you have a car as good as your car was today, isn't that like the ultimate way to play offense because people can't really catch you to screw around with you like they can when you're having to come up through the field.           

KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, it was nice for Jeff to come up to Victory Lane.  It's nice and convenient from pit road to walk by and say hi.  It was just one of those moments where it's like, Hey, we do respect each other.  To have a dominant car, he knew it would be tough for him to catch us today.  And to have that good of a car, that's where you feed off the crew.  Hey, I'm going to go out there early, I told Steve, and try to gain some positions.  We were still unsure if we were going to make it on a two-stop strategy.  But with the lap times that we could run, we could maintain pace above those guys doing the short pit.  We've seen that a lot this year.  Steve can jump in and say some things about it.  Guys are short pitting and gaining a lot of track position.           

STEVE ADDINGTON:  That was the key.  When he got the lead from the 11 car, we set the pace that we were setting, I was watching the car on TV, we weren't jumping curves and stuff like that.  We're not absolutely pushing the car to the limit is what I was thinking to myself.  I just felt, we'll do our thing.  These guys are pitting.            

It makes you nervous.  You're stomach gets all knotted up.  You feel like you're getting behind.  Felt like the car was good enough if we did get caught behind, what he did at the beginning of the race, as smooth as he drove that car all day long, we could get back if we gave up anything.

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Posted on: June 26, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 9:22 pm

Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards post Sonoma comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Carl, you are still the points leader by 25 over Kevin Harvick.  Talk about coming into the road course at this point in the season and maintaining that points lead.          

CARL EDWARDS:  I think this is a huge weekend for us.  We started out terrible.  We changed plans right at the end of practice on Friday.  We all got together and talked about it.  I called the CEO of Fastenal.  We decided for me to stay here and practice on Saturday and Billy Johnson would run the Fastenal Mustang up there in Road America.  That was the call of the weekend.  Ended up giving us two hours of practice.  We got to really work on the car, and that's what made this a good day for us.           

I would have much rather gone over and raced over there.  Bob did a great job with the strategy.  Early in the race we were terrible.  We were back there mired in the back, all the other terrible racecars like Jeff Gordon's (laughter).  I almost passed you on the green.  It was going to be big.  But in the end, he got us.  You know, back when I was a little kid and you didn't have gray hair.           

JEFF GORDON:  Like I said, I'm going to be 40.  There are some advantages.  Today it paid off.           

CARL EDWARDS:  He got us in the end.  It was a great points day.           

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions.            

Q.  When Kurt stayed out, did you think this was playing in his hands?           

CARL EDWARDS:  We were too far back.           

JEFF GORDON:  You have to ask somebody that actually could see the front.  I know it wasn't me.           

CARL EDWARDS:  No, at the end on the restart they were telling me his lap times.  He was kind of easing around there.  Once in a while he would blister off a fast lap.  His car was extremely good.  I think he just had a very fast car.            

Q.  Carl, if you were battling for the points in the Nationwide Series, do you think you might have made the opposite decision and gone out to Wisconsin?          

CARL EDWARDS:  I think we would have.  As it stands, we're racing for the owner's championship over there, then there's the fact that I committed to running all the races.  That was the most important thing, that Fastenal was okay with me staying here.  They made it clear they were part of Roush Fenway Racing, not just for our 60 team.           

We're still fighting for the owner's championship over there and I'll race any race that I can.            

Q.  Jeff, you mentioned before the beginning of the race your car wasn't as good, then it was way better in the second half the race.  What was the biggest difference you made or maybe the way you were driving to get up to second place?          

JEFF GORDON:  We made a lot of adjustments.  Gosh, rubbers in the rear, track bar, wedge, everything else.  You know, I didn't really think any of those things were making a big difference.  But we also were never in clean air.           

There at the end, that was the furthest forward we had been all day.  I really think the adjustments we made really did work on just helping the car turn into the corner a little bit better and getting us pointed up off the corner so we could drive off a little straighter.  I was just so tight getting in the corner.  Because I had so much wheel when I went into the throttle, I wanted to spin off.  I was really slow through the fast sections as well.           

We struggled in every aspect.  Normally when you're off a little bit, there's normally one corner you're good in.  There wasn't one corner I was good in.  There at the end, I don't know if the track came to us, what happened.  It seems like that setup, the adjustments we made, being in cleaner air, started working for me.  I had enough grip to really use the curbs.  By using those curbs, I could get up off the corners better.            

Q.  Kurt Busch said at the end of the weekend he was put off by the fact you didn't apologize to him last year; you apologized to other people.  Have you ever used something like that as a catalyst to come back and kick everybody's butt?  He had a phenomenal race.  Have you ever used something like that to kind of push you to have a day like the day Kurt had today?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, no.  I make a bonehead move and mistake on a guy, a guy like Kurt Busch who ran me off the track on a restart, then I ran him off the track on the next restart.  But I did it far more.           

I didn't feel like I owed him an apology.  He's done things to me over the years that I didn't get any apology on.  That's just the relationship I have with Kurt.  If it's Carl, certain guys out there have certain relationships.  If you have that kind of respect on the track for one another, you apologize.  I don't think that exists really with me and Kurt, so I see no reason to apologize.           

Those guys have been on a mission here lately.  I would say their motivation is how bad they ran earlier in the year.  I think it was pretty well-documented how much they struggled, some of the comments that were made.  Whatever they've done since then, it's been working.  They're fast on ovals, fast on the road courses.  They were strong all weekend long.           

To me, that's why he's in Victory Lane, 'cause he's a good driver and he had a great racecar and team today.            

Q.  The way they have come back and performed here lately, have you ever seen a team and organization turn things around that fast?           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know if it's unusual, but they definitely have turned things around.  Our team one year ago after this race, we turned things around, got on a roll.  Now all I worry about is how long it's going to last, if we can keep it going.  I'm sure they're thinking the same thing, hoping they can keep this going through the whole season.  It's amazing how the performance in this sport peaks and can fall as quickly as well.            

Q.  Can you give us an idea what you thought when you saw the 14 car.  It's not often that we see a car kind of in that position, so to speak.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know.  What happened?           

JEFF GORDON:  I'll tell you what I thought.  Did you see the wreck in the Grand-Am in Elkhart Lake?  That's what I thought.  Throttle stuck or brakes went out.  You got to be traveling at a high rate of speed going backwards to get up on the tires over there and keep it there.           

From what I heard, he had a little help getting there.            

Q.  Carl, how much do you think staying yesterday helped?  Was it tough at all watching the Road America race?           

CARL EDWARDS:  It was tough to watch the race.  But I think staying was the right decision.  I paid off today.  It was a good call.  We could have finished poorly here, ended up on the fence over there like Tony did or something.  Anything can happen.  It turned out to be the right call and it paid off, so it was a great move.            

Q.  From up here it looked like things were crazy on turn 11.  Lot of action.  In your past experience with this race, was it more than usual or anything different about turn 11 or just the way luck is?           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I made a comment one time on the radio, it was nuts, just crazy, crazy.  You guys are seeing turn 11.  It's crazy from the time you drop the green going into one, two, three.  I mean, it's just the buildup to get to turn 11.           

The problem is turn 11.  There's two places you can pass on this track, going into seven and 11.  You couldn't really pass going into seven today.  It was so slick, you had to be so careful.  So everybody gets to turn 11.  Because you're racing one another, it seems like guys, you know, really block the inside lane and force guys to go around the outside lane.  So it builds frustration.  You get in a position where this is your only shot for that entire lap to try to make a pass.           

So, you know, either somebody gets aggressive and drives in there too hard, makes contact, or they just get frustrated and start using the bumper.  It's hard to say.  But it was pretty crazy from where I was sitting.  I know that.           

CARL EDWARDS:  It looks like there's an opportunity with all the pavement out there to move turn 11 150 or 200 yards this way.  Call it the doughnut hole.  Spin around and do doughnuts.  A lot of pavement to put that corner all the way at the end of it.  You know what I mean?             

Q.  Jeff, you alluded you didn't feel you needed to apologize to Kurt from last year.  You apologized to a few of the others.  Did you come into this race planning to run it differently than you did last year?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, I didn't plan on going into it last year that way.  It just kind of happened that way.           

I was not proud of some of the things that I did last year.  You know, it's not my style.  It's not the way I like to race.  Like I said, there were some instances where it was a mistake on my part.  Juan Pablo is behind me.  He's the king of the late brakers.  He would be a long bay ways behind me, yet he would still drive down inside me.  When I crashed Martin, I was blocking Juan Pablo and made me go into Martin.  It wasn't like I was trying to do anything towards Martin.           

There were times today where we didn't have the car and I gave up the spots.  I wasn't going to try to push the issue.  I guess that's good and bad.  I didn't have a car that could even try to pass anybody or block anybody down in turn 11 for most of the race.  So I had to give up a lot of those spots and bite my tongue and hope that we could get it fixed or get track position, which it worked out.           

I certainly didn't want to make as many enemies as I did last year, because I made a lot of 'em coming out of here.  So it's nice to come out of here and that not happen.  I don't think I really touched anybody today.  So that feels good.           

CARL EDWARDS:  You really pissed me off passing me at the end (laughter).           

JEFF GORDON:  But I didn't touch you (laughter).           

CARL EDWARDS:  I felt bad after that race.  Then I heard how mad everybody was at you and it made me feel better (smiling).            

Q.  You might not want to talk specifically in the first person, but talk about retribution and what you need to do if someone gets you earlier in the race.  With Vickers and Stewart today, they seemed to have the bad blood.  I'm sure you've had problems with other drivers in a particular race.  Talk about that in general because NASCAR might be listening.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't think I've ever gone out and tried to get somebody back.  Have you?           

JEFF GORDON:  Never.  And I have a terrible memory.  I never remember those instances where I got into a wreck with somebody so I forget about it later.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I think NASCAR has this 'have at it' mentality, the statement they made.  I think in the end will be better and safer for all of us.  You know when you're out there, if NASCAR is going to let things be settled on the racetrack, I think people will respect each other a little bit more on the racetrack, and that's good.           

JEFF GORDON:  The only thing I'll say is if you're going to try to win a championship, those types of situations are, in my opinion, going to hinder you from doing that.  If you start getting into a battle with a guy, especially if it's somebody that is not in championship contention, you know, then what happens is you're not going to win.  It's going to be a lose for you and everybody.  If it's somebody that's in the championship, then you guys have to figure out how to settle it, whether it happens on the track or off the track.           

I think it just depends.  If you're that upset at what happened, and you see that guy again before the race is over, you're still upset, depends on how your fuse is.  Some people have short fuses and some people have long fuses.  I got into a battle with Tony Stewart before.  That's not a guy I battle with anymore.  We had our situation.  I'm so glad that we resolved it fairly quickly.  Nobody has more respect for one another out there than me and Tony because I've been on the other side of it with him when he can get mad.  He's not a guy that you want to have gunning at you.  He's a great racecar driver, he's smart, he can get really mad.  We'll see how this one turns out.            

Q.  Jeff, does it ever get old winning in your neck of the woods?  Probably not.           

JEFF GORDON:  I hate winning and I hate finishing second.  It's awful (laughter).           

CARL EDWARDS:  You have to deal with all the trophies and money and stuff.  It's awful.           

JEFF GORDON:  You have to understand my emotions throughout this day.  Carl can relate because I know he was back there with me.  I never thought for one second we were going to finish second today or anywhere in the top 10.  So to come back and do what we did was incredible.           

I love coming out here for so many reasons.  You know, the family, the friends.  But I love this track.  It's a very challenging, but fun track to drive.  It's the first road course of the season.  That's unique and different for us at this point in the season.  I get to bring my family out here.  Ella's birthday is this past week, so had a birthday party for her.  There's just one thing after the other.  I have the wine that's out here.  There's so many reasons I love coming out here.           

So to me it's only added pressure to try to do well on the racetrack.  And I'm just shocked with all the distractions that we've actually been able to be as successful as we have.  I was up the 4:30 in the morning two days this week.  I was dead here on Friday.  Luckily my wife was very considerate to let me get a lot of sleep the last couple days.  I don't think we would have run as well as we did today.            

Q.  What were you doing up till 4:30?           

JEFF GORDON:  I was up at 4:30 with Leo.  That was six or seven years ago (laughter).            

Q.  When you see something like what went on with Vickers and Tony, Vickers may come back at him and vice versa, how aware of you are that while you're trying to run your clean race?  How do you handle that?           

CARL EDWARDS:  I wasn't even listening.           

JEFF GORDON:  You have to understand, neither one of us even saw that.  I don't know what happened.  I hate to comment on something I don't know what happened.  I was purely pointing out an instance with me and Tony.           

It sounds like there was a situation, I don't know what it was.  I was kind of using that as a reference.  But I have no idea what happened.           

I think something may have happened earlier that led to that.  But I have no idea.  I don't think it's really something I can comment on.            

Q.  You're not aware of that at all.  That doesn't factor into trying to stay away from those guys during the course of the race?           

CARL EDWARDS:  My spotter does a good job of letting me know who is mad at each other.  Jason says, Watch these guys up here, they're about to wreck each other.  You never really know what happened.  You don't know if it happened a lap before.  It's hard to tell in real-time what happened to who and what's about to happen.            

Q.  Jeff, your fans out here are pretty crazy.  They just love you to death.  How do they compare to fans around the country?  Are they as enthusiastic?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, you know, you've got the really avid core of fans that are kind of based back east or in the southeast that are very avid fans.  The difference is I'm from here.  Because I'm from here and we've had so much success out here, the avid fans that are out here are as big of fans as there are anywhere else in the country.           

It feels so good to go to driver introductions and get the reception that I get.  Even just walking through the garage area.  Again, another one of those reasons why I love coming out here, because it is not the same other places that we go.  I have an incredible fan base, but it is a little bit unique out here because Vallejo being so close.            

Q.  After the race, Jeff, you came into the winner's circle and congratulated Kurt.  Did that have anything to do with what went on here last year?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Did you apologize?           

JEFF GORDON:  I'm still not apologizing (laughter).           

No, had nothing to do with that.  The guy did a great job.  He drove a great race.  They've been running well.  To me what happened here last year, what happened at Martinsville, is behind us.  I've moved on from that.  I think we're pretty even.  Was just congratulating him on the win.  Had nothing to do with anything else.           

I think it was his first road course win.  Is that right?  So a guy really who is as talented as he is, every guy that competes in this series has won on ovals wants to win on a road course to kind of prove something to themselves and the rest of the competitors.  When you do that the first time, I know how much it means.  I know it meant a lot to him.  I wanted to congratulate him on it.            

Q.  Carl, you decided to stay and practice yesterday.  Did that help for you?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Come on, you need to get here on time.            

Q.  I was with the winner.           

CARL EDWARDS:  Hey, we're all winners (laughter).           

It did help to stay.  We covered it earlier.  But I think it was a good decision.  I owe it to Fastenal for helping me make that decision.  It was cool.            
Q.  Jeff, you talked about that you haven't been real good on the road courses.  What does this do for you now?  You were right there at the end.           

JEFF GORDON:  I have a question for Carl.  I want to know what you were thinking when you decided that you were going to fly all the way across the country from California during the middle of the season for that race.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I like to race a lot, okay?           

JEFF GORDON:  I know you do.           

CARL EDWARDS:  We had so much fun last there, man.  Have you raced there?           

JEFF GORDON:  No.  When you left last year, I was like, He's crazy.  So I take my hat off to you for doing that.           

CARL EDWARDS:  Thanks.           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I think I may have answered that question, as well.           

CARL EDWARDS:  Are you going to write this article on Tuesday (laughter)?  We're just messing with you.           

JEFF GORDON:  I don't remember the specifics of your question.  But we struggled throughout this day and we really were able to turn it around with some adjustments as well as track position there at the end.  So kind of contributed to a great finish.

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Posted on: June 26, 2011 7:52 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 8:36 pm

Speed Read: Toyota/SaveMart 350

By Pete Pistone


Kurt Busch dominates in victory at Sonoma


If you’re a fan of high-speed demo derbies and drivers paying back one another on a lap-by-lap basis, Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 was the race for you. 

However if passing without retribution and side-by-side racing minus intentional wrecking is more your cup of tea then the first of the season’s two road course races wasn’t it. 

Since the advent of double file restarts and the “Boys Have at It” message from NASCAR, road course racing has replaced short track competition as the rough and tumble venue for the Sprint Cup Series. 

There is far and away more beating and banging going on nowadays at Infineon and Watkins Glen than the more traditional spots for that style of racing like Bristol and Martinsville. 

But while the aggressive style and no holds barred approach has made the pair of Cup road races much more entertaining, it loses some of its luster when things boil over as they did in Sunday’s race. 

The afternoon was punctuated with one driver war after another with the list including Joey Logano vs. Robby Gordon, Brian Vickers vs. Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya vs. both Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski. 

There were others but those were the main events.

Logano started the day from the pole but was quickly swept up in his tussle with Gordon that ended with the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota punting the No. 7 Dodge into the tire barrier. 

"He drives like a moron every week," Logano said. "We were a lot faster than him. I got outside of him one corner and he knocked in my fender, all that (blank) there. So I had enough of it. I'm not going to get pushed around; I don't care." 

Vickers and Stewart got into it early with a battle that featured each trying to block the other for position. It finally ended when Vickers sent Stewart’s car spinning into and onto the last corner’s tire barrier. 

"I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier but I dumped him because he was blocking,” Stewart said. “If anybody wants to block all year that's what I'm going to keep doing so they can handle it however they want. It was payback, but I dumped him first and I dumped him because he was blocking. I've been complaining about the way guys have been racing all year.” 

Then there was Montoya, who tangled with both Keselowski and Kahne on separate occasions and caught the wrath of each driver after the checkered flag flew. 

“Montoya just drove through me at the top of the hill, that’s just obvious,” Kahne said. “Last year when (the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) cars were really, really good and Jamie McMurray was the man, Juan still couldn’t win a race. That shows about what he can do here in NASCAR anyways.”

The bottom line is this appears to be what NASCAR fans want. Drivers mad at each other, emotions flaring and mangled racecars in the garage area when the race is finished. 

Round two is set for August 14th in Watkins Glen.



Jeff Gordon  

The Infineon king with five career victories came up one position short of collecting a half dozen Sonoma trophies. Gordon’s day wasn’t easy by any means but his road racing skills were on display with a hard drive down the stretch that resulted in the well-earned runner-up finish. 

Marcos Ambrose 

Wasn’t able to erase last year’s bitter taste of giving up the lead and potential win with a late race mental mistake but came away with a solid fifth place finish for his efforts on Sunday. Ambrose insisted all week that he had forgotten about last year’s Sonoma disappointment but he did appear to be on a mission Sunday. 

Joey Logano 

His name was in the news all week as rumors of Carl Edwards coming to Joe Gibbs Racing to take his seat next season swirled. Logano responded with a pole-winning run on Friday and backed it up with a Top 10 finish that included a dust-up with Robby Gordon. For his sake it was the start of a similar string of runs that ended last season for Logano.



Tony Stewart

One of the victim’s of Sunday’s payback mentality when he got turned around by Brian Vickers in retaliation for an earlier incident and wound up sliding up and into the tire barrier heading into the final turn. Stewart was understanding of the situation and made no bones about “deserving” the outcome but at the end of the day he comes out of Sonoma with a 39th place finish. 

Denny Hamlin  

What a difference a week makes. After going to victory lane last Sunday in Michigan, Hamlin had a frustrating afternoon in Northern California. Although he had a fast car and was upfront early, mechanical problems plagued the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and after spending a great deal of time in the garage area Hamlin finished the day 37th. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Road course racing has not been one of Earnhardt’s favorite things to do but he didn’t get much of a chance on Sunday. Early issues knocked the No. 88 car from contention and the recent surge of consistent Top 5 and Top 10 finishes came to a grinding halt with a thud as Earnhardt was credited with 41st in the final rundown.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

"He was pissed at himself. He's mad because he can't win in NASCAR." – Kasey Kahne on Juan Pablo Montoya 

``I probably had it coming, because I dumped him earlier, but I dumped him because he was blocking." – Tony Stewart on Brian Vickers 

"If we were racing for points we would have pitted a while ago, but we are gambling!" – Crew chief Gil Martin to Kevin Harvick 

"Tell Joey’s Dad to come down here and watch him get a spanking." – Robby Gordon referring to an incident with Joey Logano 

"Car's a piece of *$!*! It's just terrible! Got to get the wedge out." – Marcos Ambrose



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 a three. I will completely agree with how much more interesting road course racing has become since the introduction of double file restarts. The aggressive driving and high emotions have turned what I felt were pretty sedate affairs before into some pretty entertaining afternoons. But I’m not a fan of drivers simply spinning each other out on purpose and crashing one another in a constant succession of payback. There was too much of that for my taste Sunday and in the end I wonder how many fans felt the same way.



The annual Fourth of July weekend at Daytona International Speedway is next up and Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. It’s restrictor plate race number three of the season and a return to where the tandem draft-racing craze began back in February during Speedweeks. Will we see another surprise winner like Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 upset or will one of the veterans who have mastered this new phenomenon rise up and go to victory lane? Either way under the lights on a mid-summer night at “The World Center of Racing” is usually pretty special.

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Posted on: June 26, 2011 9:58 am

Road racing weekend - part two

By Pete Pistone

After spending a wild and to say the least crazy day at Road America on Saturday covering the Nationwide Series race, I'll turn my attention to the west coast and Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway. 

There's no reason to believe Sunday's Cup affair won't be any less nutty than what took place Saturday at the four-mile course in ELkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Maybe there won't be a bizarre triple overtime finish with leaders running out of gas and NASCAR needing to review video as well as timing and scoring loops to declare the winner as was the case in the Nationwide race. But stock car racing on road courses, especially in recent years, have had a knack for providing some pretty dramatic and yes chaotic moments.

The strangeness seems to have already started in Sonoma with this story from The Sporting News outlining the pit stall selections teams have made for today's race:

At an oval track, it's a no-brainer that the top qualifier will choose pit stall No. 1, closest to the exit from pit road. So why did Greg Zipadelli, crew chief for polesitter #20-Joey Logano, choose pit stall No. 11-just short of the start/finish line-for Sunday's race? Quite simply, there are considerations at the 1.99-mile road course that don't apply at an oval track. Here's the explanation: 

Given the likelihood of green-flag pit stops and the danger of running out of fuel, Zipadelli opted for a pit stall that gives the team room to push-start the car in a situation where it's out of gas. There's a small opening in front of pit stall No. 11, which would give the team room to push the car without rolling through another team's pit box. 

AJ Allmendinger's crew chief, Mike Shiplett, chose pit stall No. 1 with the seventh pick. Yes, there's a clear exit from pit road, but there's also a risk. If Allmendinger happens to run out of fuel, his team won't be able to push-start the car, because of the proximity of pit stall No. 1 to the racing surface.

That's why the first 10 stalls at Infineon aren't popular picks with most crew chiefs.

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Category: Auto Racing
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