Infineon Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on June 26, 2011 | 9:14 P.M. EST
Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 provided its share of entertaining and dramatic moments (Photo: Getty Images)
About two years ago I thought NASCAR racing on rod courses was the dullest thing this side of an episode of “Masterpiece Theater.”
That was before double file restarts and aggressive driving changed the complexion of stock cars turning left and right.
Since the advent of the “Shootout Style” rule, Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Infineon Raceway, Watkins Glen, Road America and Montreal have evolved into some of the most entertaining stops of the NASCAR calendar.
In addition to the slam bang action and high emotion that have made the road circuits more akin to short track racing than anything; the annual trips to these tracks have created some of the most bizarre moments in the sport’s history.
Saturday’s Nationwide race at Road America was a prime example.
After nearly three hours of drivers running into each other, racing side by side and being angry at one another the drama was raised to another level. Three overtime finishes and nearly every one of the leaders running out of gas resulted in Reed Sorenson being declared the winner after NASCAR had to scour video and scoring loops to determine the outcome.
Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 didn’t quite reach those odd proportions but provided its share of entertaining and dramatic moments.
Now while I’ve come around to actually enjoy NASCAR road racing (this from a guy who regularly scheduled family vacations around either the Cup Sonoma or Watkins Glen weekends in past years), I’m okay with the number of races and venues we have on both the Cup and Nationwide schedules.
Some want more road racing added to the Sprint Cup calendar and there’s a group that would actually like to see one added to the Chase.
I say that’s going way too far and a pair of visits each season, which takes the sport away from its norm, is just fine. Stock car racing was created for oval track racing and in my opinion that’s where NASCAR belongs. A weekend or two competing on road circuits is plenty for me.
But after this weekend’s action you can be sure I won’t be taking any vacation time in August when Watkins Glen rolls around.
- Whether it’s a road course of oval track, I’m just not a fan for drivers intentionally wrecking anyone. These are supposed to be the best of the best yet since the “Boys Have at It” era dawned it’s become much more fashionable to simply run over someone rather than use skills to actually pass. That was pretty evident in Sunday’s Sonoma race and in the end I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I have the previous couple of races at Infineon.
- Saturday’s second Nationwide trip to Road America was another success at the gate with a huge crowd jamming the gorgeous facility. A picture-perfect weather day certainly didn’t hurt and local media made estimates of 50-60,000. I’d be shocked if Elkhart Lake didn’t remain an annual visit for the foreseeable future.
- The Road America race was also another example of how good the Nationwide Series can be without the presence of Sprint Cup regulars in the field. Only Michael McDowell represented the Cup division after Carl Edwards decided to remain in Sonoma and not make the long trip to Elkhart Lake. Even without any of the so-called “names” of the sport on hand, the race was one of the best in series history. It’s too bad NASCAR jumbled up the championship system to ensure a Nationwide regular would win the title when all it had to do is schedule a couple more events like Saturday’s that made it nearly impossible for the Cup interlopers to participate.
- News from Sonoma over the weekend would lead you to believe the “Silly Season” maneuvers for 2012 won’t be that silly after all. Clint Bowyer appears headed back to sign an extension with Richard Childress Racing while Juan Pablo Montoya is on track to do the same with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. That still leaves the biggest free agent of them all Carl Edwards out there but unless a bucket of money falls out of the sky for Joe Gibbs Racing to field a fourth car next season, I still predict Edwards will be back with Roush Fenway and the No. 99 entry.