Fantasy Racing: Infineon
Toyota Save Mart 350K
Sunday, June 21, 5:00 ET, TNT
Race Facts: Last year, Kyle Busch became the youngest driver to win at Infineon… In 2007, Juan Pablo Montoya won from the 32nd starting position, the furthest back a winner has ever started… Jeff Gordon has the most wins at Infineon of any driver with five. His last win came back in 2006… Only three of the 20 races at Sonoma have been won by drivers who have started outside the top 11… Chris Cook, Patrick Carpentier, Ron Fellows, Tom Hubert and Brian Simo will be making their 2009 Sprint Cup debuts this weekend as road course ringers.
Drivers to Watch:
Kevin Harvick: I said last week that Harvick’s bounceback was going to happen this week and I am sticking to it. Harvick had a better performance than I anticipated last week, and it should carry over to Infineon, where he has run well. However, Harvick doesn’t have the finishes to show for it, with just an average finish of 17th. Last year, he ran very well, dumping Tony Stewart going for second place with less than 10 laps to go, but ended up finishing 30th. Harvick has won at Watkins Glen, and while they’re two distinctly different road courses, Harvick is one of the better road course racers on the circuit.
Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has only one start at Infineon—which came last year—and it was a 42nd place finish. However, for most of that race, Ambrose was running in the top five until he broke a transmission. Ambrose grew up racing road courses and has been a threat in every NASCAR sanctioned road course event he’s competed in. Ambrose is running very well this year, and he’ll be in a better car this year than he was last year. Barring any mechanical failures, Ambrose is a lock for the top 10.
Boris Said: This pick is a bit of a gamble because of the quality of equipment that Said will be driving this weekend, not to mention the fact that Boris will have to qualify on time this weekend. The Master should get into the field fairly easily and qualify in the top half. Equipment willing, Said won’t be a threat to win, but should have a top 15 finish.
Drivers to Watch Out for:
Jimmie Johnson: No, I don’t think Johnson will be horrible this weekend, but Infineon certainly is one of Johnson’s worst tracks. (worst being a relative term) Infineon is one of seven tracks that Johnson hasn’t won at in his career, and Johnson only has an average finish of 19.3 in seven starts. And, believe it or not, Johnson only has one top 10, and that came in 2004. Johnson shouldn’t be horrible by any means, but he won’t be a threat to win like he is at most tracks.
Matt Kenseth: Last year was Kenseth’s first top 10 at Infineon, and I think he would be the first to tell you how much he dislikes road racing. Kenseth’s average finish at Sonoma is 21.8, but he’s not much better at Watkins Glen either. Kenseth’s poor qualifying tendencies don’t help either, as it requires him to have to pass more cars—a skill on a road course—to get to the front. Look for Kenseth to hover right around 25th all day.
David Gilliland: Do not be fooled by Gilliland’s second place finish here last year. TRG Motorsports has started parking Gilliland because of a lack of sponsorship and it would be a minor miracle if he ran the entire race. If Gilliland does get to go the full distance, he’s a true sleeper threat, but it’s more likely that he will park the 71 shortly after the beginning of the race.
Stone Cold Lock of the Week:
Tony Stewart: This came down to a coin-flip between Gordon and Stewart for the dubious distinction, and Smoke won out. Stewart has won twice at Infineon and has an average finish of 10th. But what’s more telling is Stewart’s consistency, as he has only one finish in his 10 Infineon starts lower than 15th. Stewart is right in the top echelon of road course drivers with both Gordons, Ambrose and Montoya, and is my pick to win on Sunday. However, even if Stewart doesn’t win, look for him to have a great finish.
To Watch: Gordon – 2nd, Newman – 23rd,, Ragan – 15th
To Watch Out: Burton – 26th, Montoya – 6th, Harvick – 18th
Stone Cold Lock: Biffle – 5thNo Comment