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Restarts Could Be Where Trouble Starts

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 21 2009
Restarts could be the place where the problems start at Infineon today.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Restarts could be the place where the problems start at Infineon today. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Being a native of Colombia, Juan Pablo Montoya still has a bit of trouble with the English language. And from time to time, that can lead to translation problems and even misunderstandings.

But in talking about restarts under NASCAR’s new double-file procedure during Sunday’s Sprint Cup race on the road course of Infineon Raceway, Montoya was highly succinct.

 “They’re going to suck,” Montoya said of restarts.

NASCAR implemented the rule earlier in the season simply to insert a bit more drama in to races. The hope was, that with all the lead-lap cars lined up next to each other on restarts, there would be action like crazy as drivers headed into first turns with the race leads on the line.

Up to this weekend, the new restarts had been confined to oval tracks.

But on Sunday, the series will use them at Infineon, an 11-turn road course which has proved overly dramatic even without the new starting procedure.

Hence Montoya’s unmistakable feelings on the subject.

“There is always somebody that wants to prove a point,” Montoya, the 2007 winner of the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon, said. “Hopefully that guy is not around you.”

Montoya – a former Formula One driver who used to engage in point-proving activities all the time, and with competitors like Michael Schumacher – is not alone in predicting high drama on restarts Sunday.

Denny Hamlin, not a veteran of road racing, was not so melodramatic as to say restarts would “suck” at Infineon. He simply said they would be “crazy”.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see how it does work out but I’m excited for it,” Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibb Racing FedEx Toyota, said. “I just hope it’s not a parking lot in turn one on the first restart we have.  I think it’s going to be typical, you’re going to have a few cars off here and there and I think double file restarts are going to be challenging, especially a guy who’s running fifth or sixth and can see a win right in front of them.”

Hamlin speaks from experience.

“I remember getting in a wreck here last year because somebody hit somebody eight cars behind me and it was just push one right into another, finally it hit me and I was way in front of the wreck that happened,” he said. “It could be big, that’s for sure.”

The first turn at Infineon is, for restart purposes, actually two turns. There is a softish left-hander just after the start/finish line, and then another quick left-hander.

There is also elevation change involved in that section of the track.

As Carl Edwards explained, “Yeah, the first turn is not that big of a deal, but it’s that second turn at the top of the hill, where you can’t see over the hill.  It’s about a 110- or 120-degree radius and that’s going to be wild on the restarts.”

Edwards was asked if he and his Roush Fenway Racing team have a plan in place for restarts at Infineon.

“It’s way to early to have a strategy for that double-file restart,” he said Friday. “Towards the end of the race there may be a strategy, but you could only strategize if you knew the caution was coming, so it’s gonna be pretty tough.”

Not all are predicting mayhem on restarts.

Tony Stewart has taken cool-headed approach.

“We’re all pretty used to it so I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a drama,” Stewart said. “We all start the race double-file. The guys that are up front and are fast, they’ve got control of their cars normally at that point. I don’t think it’s going to be that hectic out here.

“I think it’s actually going to make it pretty fun. I thought we would still be at single-file restarts here but the good thing is that is why we’ve got 43 professionals in this series, that’s why they got to this level is because they are able to handle that.”

Either that or it’s going to suck.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 21 2009
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