Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Wild and zany, and drivers leave Sonoma all riled up...except for winner Kurt Busch

  Man, it gets jammed up at the top of the hill. Better have a good transmission at Sonoma, and strong bumpers...and really thick skin (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Chaotic, wild, crazy.....and throw in a bunch of emotion too, a whole lot of emotion. But that's about what Sonoma's Infineon course has turned into over the past few years, with more angry, bruised feelings afterwards than at most short tracks on the NASCAR tour.

   Now the action up on the point might have been, well, less than thrilling, as ruthlessly efficient as Kurt Busch performed. But back in the pack it was sheer chaos during much of Sunday's Sonoma 350....and in the garage after the race it was TemperTantrum City
   -- Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers had their deals....which wound up costing Stewart any shot at catching Busch for the win.
   -- Robby Gordon and Joey Logano were mad at each other for their run-ins.
   -- Kasey Kahne, and others, were hot at Juan Pablo Montoya...who was mad at Brad Keselowski.
    Kahne fired several shots at Montoya, who drove very aggressively: "He's ticked at himself....because he can't win in NASCAR."
   Ouch! That's Kahne talking about a Formula One star who won a lot of big international Grand Prix events but has only two victories since joining the Sprint Cup tour in 2006, and whose rivalry with Ryan Newman has been about his only headlines of the season.
   But in another corner of the Infineon Raceway garage an even stranger scene was taking place: Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick shaking hands.
   Yes, shaking hands. Two rivals who have had several incidents this season and just got off NASCAR probation.
   Class act...even if they weren't really smiling.
   One potential issue, which neither NASCAR nor Goodyear immediately addressed, was raised by Robby Gordon, who said the tires Goodyear brought for this race had two different date codes, apparently meaning that one batch of tires was 'fresher' and thus faster than the older set. Who got which tires, and who determined that, is unclear. A similar situation apparently occurred last week at Michigan, where one crew said there were two different sets of tires available, one fresher than the other.


  Would you believe Kyle Busch (L) and Kevin Harvick (R) shaking hands? Yes, as webman Michael Myers caught on film Sunday after the Sonoma 350 (Photo: Michael Myers/Queers for Gears)

   Stewart freely admitted he 'dumped' Vickers early in the race, and he conceded he probably got what he deserved when Vickers dumped him late, leaving Stewart's car hung up on a stack of tires.
   But Stewart said he was trying to make a point about blocking -- he doesn't like it, doesn't condone it, and if anybody tries to block him, he's going to put them in the wall.
   It's not a new issue for Stewart, who the past several weeks has talked about a general feeling of disrespect he senses has permeated the NASCAR garage: "People don't use their heads. It's either they don't use their heads or they just don't care anymore, and that's the part that is kind of disappointing.
    "The series was a lot of fun working with world-class drivers that respected each other.
    "When guys are doing that, it shows they don't have respect for each other anymore, and it's a shame."
   Just how Stewart could make that particular judgment, at infamous turn 11 no less, was surprising.
   Vickers said when Stewart sees the replays he'll understand the traffic jam just ahead: "It's pretty early in the race to worry about blocking someone or wrecking someone. 
   "I think when Tony sees the replay and he realizes why I went low -- he'll realize that if he looks out my front windshield -- he'll realize it had nothing to do with him; it had to do with Kyle Busch almost wrecking and a couple other guys slowing up top. 
   "But he made his bed at that moment and he had to sleep in it."

     Robby Gordon: dumped by Joey Logano. Don't think that won't come back around...(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  Keselowski felt a bit the same about the abuse he felt he had been taking from Montoya late in the race, while they were racing near the front.
   "I don't take any pride in all that stuff, but at some point you have to run your own deal," Keselowski said of the bump he finally delivered to Montoya that pushed him off the course. 
    "It was pretty obvious that it was eat or be eaten...and I wasn't going to be eaten."
   Montoya said he was hot at lot of rivals: "Kasey was the first car -- I got beside him, and he knocked me a couple of times. They just don't give me any room...
   "Brad, I got on his bumper moved him a little bit, got beside him and passed him, and he just plain and simple wrecked us.
    "It's hard when people don't know how to race on road courses and think they do."
    How now to deal with Keselowski? And, remember, this isn't Montoya's first big run-in this season...
    "Ask him; he's the one that wrecked me," Montoya said. "We went through the corner, and I just got on his bumper a little bit and moved him a little, got a good run -- and I guess he didn't like it.
    "I mean it is just hard to run with people who have never run well on road courses or have no experience at it.
     "It cost us a ton of points."



Hey, here's an idea: add Sonoma's Infineon track to the championship playoffs. California needs at least one chase race, doesn't it? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    And over in Robby Gordon's part of the garage, feelings were just as hot: "I just got wrecked by Logano. 
    "He punted us."
   Logano's take: "He was running me all over the track.  He knocked my fender in for no reason. 
   "We were a lot, lot faster than him (Logano won the pole). 
    "I just had enough.  I wasn't going to get pushed around. 
    "He pushed around before, and I was sick of it."

   Carl Edwards, who qualified poorly Friday and then decided to skip the cross-country flight to the Nationwide race at Wisconsin's Road America (which he won last summer), said he was relieved to finish third. In fact late in the race he was running second.
   "It was just a crazy race, and for us to be able to work our way up to where we finished just says a ton about my crew and Bob Osborne (crew chief)," Edwards said. "To be able to escape out of here with a top-three is a good day, especially considering everything that went on out there."

Kurt Busch, running through infamous turn 11. Why does a major NASCAR track have a parking lot for a corner? Maybe track owner Bruton Smith needs to redesign this part of his Sonoma track (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    The remarkable turnaround that the Roger Penske operation has made in the past six or seven weeks, with both Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski running very strong week after week, has certainly caught Edwards' eye. Edwards opened the season as the hottest driver, but now that may be Busch, and Kurt, not Kyle.
   "They have definitely turned things around," Edwards said of Penske-Busch-Keselowski. "Our team, one year ago, after this race, really turned things around and got on a role.
    "Now all I worry about is how long it will last, and if we can keep it going....I am sure they are thinking the same thing, and hoping they can keep this going through the whole season.
    "It is amazing how the performance in this sport peaks -- and can fall quickly as well."
    Much of the angry action occurred in turn 11, the flat 'parking lot' corner that is defined by bands of old tires. It is the staging area for the drag strip. But it is certainly not a NASCAR-caliber turn, more makeshift than anything. Plus, it comes at the end of the long backstretch esses, leading into the high-speed braking area, where drivers taunt each other by trying to driving in deeper before braking. Many times drivers simply run into each other, and create a big mess.
   That's what caught Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   "They had a big ol' mess getting into 11, and we jumped in there and got part of it, and banged up the nose," Earnhardt said of his early DNF. "It knocked a hole in the radiator
    "It was a really rough race, but it was fun. It just sucks to be out early.
    "I was seeing beatin' and bangin'... but that is just the way the road courses are. It is the way these races here have been for awhile. You know what you sign up for when you show up on Friday.
    "You kind of want to get up in the middle of it, you know. You want to get in the middle of it and have fun. Everybody is bangin' around...but your car can't survive it."
   To which Edwards says maybe the track owners could redesign that corner: "It looks like there is an opportunity, with all that pavement, to move turn 11 about 200 yards.
    "There is an awful lot of pavement there to put that corner at the end of it."


     That's Juan Pablo Montoya on the inside, Brad Keselowski on the outside, and Kyle Busch watching it all. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Did anyone notice that Carl

Did anyone notice that Carl Edwards passed about 10 cars by taking a shortcut to Turn 11 during the first Vickers-Stewart wreck. The announcers never commented on it, and I couldn't tell if he was ever made to go back to where he was supposed to be in the rundown. At minimum, he should have been put back in line where he was at when the wreck started, if not given a penalty for cutting the course short. There were 3-4 other cars that did the same manuever, but I can't tell their car numbers from the video clip. The wreck starts at the 2:24 mark.

I'll give Stewart this much, he was at least man enough to admit that he dumped Vickers and also man enough to take what he had coming once he received it. Like Vickers said, once Tony sees the video he'll know that Vickers wasn't "blocking", but rather avoiding Busch coming back on the track after Montoya pushed the 18 off the track. Had Stewart not let his temper get the best of him, he likely has a Top 3 finish instead of a torn up race car.

Check the video. at one

Check the video. at one point RG had YELLOW wheels, then on the next stop, had black wheels on the front, yellow on the back. SOMETHING was up. How many others use yellow wheels and why was RG scrounging for tires?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com