Toyota Savemart 350 Preview and Picks

Race: Toyota/SaveMart 350
Date: Sunday June 21, 2009
Track: Infineon Raceway
Time: 4:30 pm ET
Channel: TNT

This weekend, we are headed to Sonoma in California for the first road course of the season. For guys like Jeff Gordon, it’s like coming home. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and several drivers from other circuits will be in dominating form as we head to one of the only tracks in a NASCAR series with left and right turns.

Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California boasts a nearly 2 mile road course with 12 grueling turns. These types of races, which constitute only 3-4 Cup races a year, are a heck of a lot different than the typical oval tracks that we see week-in and week-out. On these courses, drivers are battling a number of different variables.

Probably the most difficult battle for any road course driver is the handling of the car. These cars that the teams bring are specially tuned for road courses, and while most teams are use to tuning for a left-turn track, the configuration and set-up of the cars is completely different.


Tires and brakes are another big concern. Drivers have to worry about wear on both tires as opposed to the typical wear on the outside tires of the race cars. They also have to worry about brakes here. There is a lot of braking that goes on as drivers high tail it down the straights into some pretty sharp turns. In the pits, you’ll see clouds of black dust shoot off the tires as brake dust flies everywhere.

Infineon is shaped almost like a guitar with a dog leg on the bottom. There’s a really sharp turn that brings the drivers back towards the start-finish.

Because of the rarity of these types of tracks on the NASCAR circuit, they are always fun to watch. You will see a lot more pushing and shoving here than you would at a typical track because of the proximity of the drivers through the turns and over the bumps. Guys like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon will forcefully move guys if time calls for it. NASCAR generally won’t penalize either unless the move is a blatant disregard to the safety of the drivers.

Here’s a look at your current top 12 in points as we head into a totally new realm for some drivers this season:

1. Tony Stewart
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kurt Busch
5. Ryan Newman
6. Carl Edwards
7. Greg Biffle
8. Mark Martin
9. Kyle Busch
10. Denny Hamlin
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Jeff Burton

It’s definitely going to be interesting to see if Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart do actually battle on the track since they are both so good at road courses. They are 1 and 2 in the points also, so we’ll have to wait and see the strategies behind these teams. Another quick side note, you will see some names that you normally wouldn’t see in this race. There are several F1 drivers that tend to cross-over into this race only because it’s basically an F1 course or very similar to one. Names like Boris Said and others who are notoriously great road course drivers come out of the wood works this weekend. Look out for those guys. They tend to be a determining factor in a lot of the wins.