Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sonoma Preview: Road Courses and Wine a Nice Change of Pace in NASCAR

By Micah Roberts

After 15 races of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing where the cuisine and beverage of choice for fans at the track is a giant turkey leg and tall-boy Budweiser, we go to the serene surroundings of Sonoma County where cheese, crackers, and wine stuffed in picnic baskets along the rolling hills can be found with Northern Californian race fans. It truly is a different scene and it’s very appropriate that is such a vastly different type of setting also has the racing be about as different, or at least different from 34 of the 36 scheduled races.

Only twice year do NASCAR fans get to see racing on road courses where the big bulky stock cars traverse through left and right turns in a racing style that the rest of world can relate to, once at Sonoma, and the other at Watkins Glen in early August. Because the racing is so different from the constant left turns of the weekly ovals, a few drivers really stand out from others just because of their past history.

The drivers who grew up through the ranks of stock car racing on ovals dread the two races a year, while others who had go-kart and open-wheel racing experience before jumping into stock cars thrive on it. Entering and exiting turns and maximum speed with minimal breaking is the key to success on the road courses and while it may not be genetically proven that some are better from birth, history has shown that those with the early experience from a young age do better than those that don’t.

Drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose, and Robby Gordon all use their past experience and excel big time for these races while others like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, and Matt Kenseth all race like they can’t for next week to arrive.

At the beginning of the year, the NASCAR Nation was complaining non-stop about Jimmie Johnson winning every week as he took three of the first five races. Since then, Denny Hamlin has gone on to win five of the last 10 races with Kyle and Kurt Busch combining to win three or the other 10 prompting the boo-birds to heckle from around the country again.

I don’t get it, do the fans want no one to win, or do they just want someone new to win every week, or is it just a matter of 50% of the NASCAR Nation being Dale Earnhardt fans who haven’t seen him win in the last two years? It’s probably a combination of all of the above.

Read More Here, Including My Early Top 5 Selections

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