For the second straight week, Marcos Ambrose is on the pole in the Sprint Cup Series, and Clint Bowyer will be shooting for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish as NASCAR takes its show to Northern California on Sunday for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma and the first road course event of the 2012 season.
Instead of the straight-out, nearly full-throttle racing that occurs on the typical oval-track layouts that dominate the NASCAR schedule, with the distance of the tracks being the major variable, road courses require a different style of racing with winding up-and-down grades and, at Infineon Raceway, anyway, 12 treacherous curves.
The difference in the layout and the style of racing can be very frustrating to the drivers, who prefer a more aggressive racing style that is extremely difficult under the conditions, and often results in a lot of banging, bumping and bad attitudes.
The tight, twisty, 12-turn rolling track at Sonoma doesn’t allow the driver to showcase the full potential of his equipment," said Juan Montoya, who drives the No. 42 Ford for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
“As a racer, you don’t make a difference,” he said.
Denny Hamlin, who will start 16th on Sunday, says all driver etiquette seems to go out the window when the Cup series shifts to Sonoma. “I think people can get away with a little bit more, maybe pay guys back for things that happen at other tracks,” he says.
Jamie McMurray, who grew up in Joplin, Mo., has his own view of why all the wrecks and demolition-derby style of racing is so indigenous with Sonoma and road racing in general: “The wrecks are happening from people being idiots,” he said.
Jeff Gordon will start on the front row Sunday outside of Ambrose. Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmy Johnson, will start third, and Greg Biffle fourth. Columbia, Mo. native Carl Edwards seems to be stuck on the number 11. He’s 11th in the points standing, finished 11th last week at Michigan and will be starting in 11th position when the green flag drops at Sonoma.