Sunday, June 20, 2010

Infineon Raceway favorites to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Sonoma

Roger Craig, the Hall of Fame running back and three-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, is the grand marshal for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.
He was asked before the race who his favorite NASCAR driver is. He said Jeff Gordon.
“He’s the man. He’s the Michael Jordan,” Craig said.
Gordon is a five-time winner in Cup races at Infineon Raceway, more than any other driver. He owns the track qualifying record, which he set in 2005. He starts fifth in today’s race at Infineon Raceway.
Gordon is Craig’s favorite. Here’s a look at the other drivers who should have a good race today:
1.    Kasey Kahne. He has the pole and won the Cup race at Infineon Raceway last year. Five drivers have won from the pole in 21 Cup races at Infineon Raceway. The last driver to do it was Gordon in 2004.
2.    Jimmie Johnson. He has never won at Infineon Raceway. He has never won a road course Cup race. But he had one of the better cars in practice and starts on the front row next to Kahne.
3.    Kevin Harvick. He’s another driver who doesn’t have a great Cup record at Infineon Raceway. In nine Cup races, he has only two top fives. His average finish is 18th place. But he is the leader in the Sprint Cup Series standings and starts fourth.
4.    Tony Stewart. He’s a two-time winner at Sonoma. He has the best driver rating at Sonoma. In 11 Cup races at Sonoma, he has seven top 10s. He starts seventh.
5.    Juan Pablo Montoya. Sure he hates the course and he has been struggling in the Cup Series. But he won this race in 2007 as a Cup rookie. Only Stewart has a better record among active Cup drivers at Sonoma. He starts 14th.
Dark horses: Marcus Ambrose was the fastest driver in the two practice sessions on Saturday.  But being the fastest in practice and the fastest in the race are two completely different things.
“Unfortunately, it’s racing,” Ambrose said. “There’s no guarantees. We’ve been working hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Jamie McMurray, the 2010 Daytona 500 winner, was second fastest in practice. He could be in store for a good run at Sonoma.
“We got our car a lot better,” McMurray said. “You only run wide open for a small amount here, so you have to have your car set up for the corners.
“I love road racing. My favorite track is Infineon. I love coming here.”
Wild card: Kyle Busch. He won the race in 2008 and has two top 10s in five Cup races at Sonoma.  He finished 22nd in last year’s race in Sonoma and was 40th in his rookie race in 2005.

Photo: Jeff Gordon is a five-time winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. (Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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