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Could NASCAR Soon Do the Twists In Chase?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 27 2011

Will the Chase go down the road road in the future? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Could the Chase hit the road? Sounds like the idea was gathering support at Infineon Raceway over the weekend.

Right now, of course, the Sprint Cup playoffs are conducted exclusively on ovals. A variety of ovals, but ovals.

But with Cup drivers getting more and more comfortable on road courses, they seem more and more amenable to including a road race in the Chase.

And with all the wonderful racing and drama over the weekend – at both Infineon and Road America in the Nationwide Series – fans may be getting more and more comfortable with the idea of doing the twists in the playoffs.

Jeff Gordon, one of the better road racers in Cup, said he would love to see a third road event in Cup and, yes, in the 10-race Chase.

“Sure, that would be great,” Gordon said. “I love the road courses. I love the two that we have and I guess if you want to look at a complete championship – we have short track,

Jeff Gordon hits a rumble strip during Sunday's Cup race at Infineon Raceway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

superspeedway, intermediates and why not have a road course in there.”

Asked where he would like to see a third road race, Gordon said, “I’ve always dreamed about racing at Laguna Seca and that’s one of the premiere road courses in the country, but I don’t see that happening. That’s more of a dream.”

Action Central at Infineon was Turn 11. It’s a right-handed hairpin where the field tends to collapse onto itself.

Gordon was asked about 11.

“I mean, I made a comment one time on the radio, it was nuts, just crazy, crazy,” the four-time champ said. “You guys are seeing Turn 11.  It’s crazy from the time you drop the green going into (turns) 1, 2 and 3. 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 7 and 11.  You couldn’t really pass going into 7 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 said after the race that all of the on-track brawling of Sunday was, in a

Carl Edwards likes having at it. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

way, a good thing.

“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,” Edwards said. “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 race track, and that’s good.”

Juan Pablo Montoya mixed it up with several drivers at Infineon. One of those was Brad Keselowski.

But after Montoya shoved, Keselowski shoved back.

Afterward, Bad Brad said, “It was pretty obvious that it was eat or be eaten and I wasn’t going to be eaten.”

Joey Logano won the pole and got a sixth-place finish at Infineon. After the race, he thanked veteran road racer Max Papis, who was brought in as a coach.

“Max (Papis) is the man,” Logano said. “He is awesome. He’s funny, listening to him on the radio and he has that accent going. He’s awesome. He’s helped out a ton.

“Everything he does, he just makes total sense. He’s just done this for so long he knows exactly what to do out there. Him being another driver you can really relate to what he is saying.  I thought it was great – him helping me before we got here last month – we were working with each other.  Hard work pays off all the time.”

Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve went from a sympathetic figure to villain

Michael McDowell, left, and Jacques Villeneuve went door to door at Road America on Saturday. Actually, they went closer than that. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

during the course of the Nationwide Series race at Road American on Saturday.

Sympathy came from an iffy penalty he was issued after officials determined he changed lanes during a restart. The penalty was a close one, though Villeneuve said he had no problem with it after the race.

“I got caught up on the restart by a rule I should have known,” he said. “I moved before the start-finish (line). I won’t do that one again.”

He became less sympathetic late in the race when he attempted a pass on a restart at a place where there was no room to pass.

He corrected and in doing so took out Max Papis, who was contending for the win.

“Then I was a little bit aggressive on one of the restarts – the track narrows before turn one and I just ran out of road, put the wheels in the grass, played bowling there, took two cars out and made a few people unhappy,” Villeneuve said.

Papis pulled his car up next to Villeneuve on pit road after the race and they exchanged words.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, June 27 2011
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