Kasey Kahne held off Tony Stewart for the win last year at Sonoma. (Photo Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Sonoma, Calif., this week for an interesting run at Infineon Raceway, a 1.99-mile road course featuring elevation changes and, most interestingly, right-hand turns. Of the 36 races on the 2010 schedule, 34 are run on ovals. Only twice a year does the series visit the twisty road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, N.Y., and when it does, fantasy NASCAR players and those handicapping NASCAR must adjust to the fact that many of the regular Sprint Cup front runners simply stink on road courses, and some of the typically slow drivers jump way up in value on these tracks. In addition, we must also ponder the value of the ringers—i.e., the road-course specialists imported into NASCAR just for these races.
As always, we must attempt to gauge Sonoma’s predictability as well. On the down side, the historical data is relatively thin because we have only the two 2009 road-course races to evaluate (there’s little point in looking at any oval-track data this week). In addition, the race is certain to feature a fair number of wrecks, and road-course wrecks have a tendency to collect other cars, a tendency the move to double-file restarts seems to exacerbate.
On the other hand, Weather.com’s forecast at press time calls for pretty terrific weather this week, with consistent temps, mostly sunny skies, and almost no chance of rain, so we should get good practice and qualifying data. Plus, Sonoma’s pit road is pretty roomy, and reduced pit-road congestion typically reduces pit-road trauma. Fuel-mileage doesn’t seem to come into play excessively at Sonoma, and the track doesn’t seem to provoke an above-average number of equipment failures either. Continue reading