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Turning right this weekend

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

This weekend the Sprint Cup Series will roll into Sonoma for the first of two road course races this season. The second road course race will take place later this summer in August at Watkins Glen and both will feature a new qualifying procedure. These will be the only two races on the entire schedule that you will get to see a Sprint Cup driver make those rare righthand turns.

Qualifying at the oval tracks consists of one car on the track at a time running one or two laps with the fastest lap counting toward where they will start for the race. Most tracks try and make their qualifying day an event in itself, but there isn’t a lot of excitement watching one car on the track at a time racing only the clock.

This season NASCAR has decided to deviate from the normal qualifying procedure for the two road course races and it could be a format that will really add some excitement for both drivers and fans. This weekend cars will not be qualifying one at a time, as cars attempting to qualify will be divided into groups. The number of groups and the amount of cars in each group will be determined by the number of cars that practice for the race. Cars will be grouped according to the times that they post in practice.

Each qualifying group will be on the track for a set period of time as determined by NASCAR with the opportunity to run several laps. A car’s best lap time during the group session will be the qualifying lap time of record. Cars will not actually be racing against each other even though they will be on the track at the same time, but fans will enjoy seeing more than one car on the track.

Sitting on the pole is a huge advantage at any track, but at a road course like Sonoma it gives a driver the choice of starting in the inside or outside lane, which is so important when setting yourself up for the first turn. Even though lane choice is important to start the race, it could be the biggest perk in sitting on the pole is getting first pick of your pit location.

You see it race after race, the driver who sat on the pole will come in for a pit stop and pick up several positions just by the location of his pit. This past weekend at Michigan, Carl Edwards started the race from the pole and used the number one pit stall to make most of his passes on the day as he consistently picked up spots every time the field came down on pit road.

CHASE NOTES: Only 11 races remain until the Chase field is set to determine who gets the opportunity to compete for the championship. Only the top 10 in points are guaranteed a spot in the 12-man Chase field with the remaining two earning their way in by being in the top 20 and posting the most wins. If there are not two drivers with wins from that list, then the 11th-and 12th-place drivers in points will make the field. The results from Michigan show that one race can make a big difference in the points as there was a big shuffling of both points and positions. Points leader Jimmie Johnson cut a tire with less than five laps remaining that led to a 28th-place finish and in the process saw his point lead take a big hit. Carl Edwards’s eighth-place finish kept him in second place and he now trails Johnson by 31 points as he was able to cut 20 points off his lead. Greg Biffle’s win also moved him up two spots in the standings to eighth and Tony Stewart’s fifthplace finished moved him into 10th with a guaranteed spot in the Chase.

Ford earned it 1000th NASCAR win with Greg Biffle’s trip to victory lane at Michigan. The win came on Ford’s 110th anniversary and in the year that the car manufacturer is celebrating the 150th birthday of its founder, Henry Ford. The company now supports 11 full-time drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, five from the Nationwide Series and two in the Camping World Truck Series. Seven hundred fifteen of Ford’s wins came from the Sprint Cup Series, 200 wins came from the Nationwide Series with 85 wins coming from the Craftsman Truck Series. Mark Martin is the all-time leader of wins in a Ford with 89 while Carl Edwards leads all drivers presently driving a Ford with 64 wins.

Race Preview
Event: Toyota/Save Mart 350
Track: Sonoma Raceway (1.99
mile road course with 10 turns)
Date: June 23, 3 p.m.
Radio: PRN
Defending Champ: Clint Bowyer

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