Sonoma Rear View Mirror


Clint Bowyer’s win added an exclamation point to the already impressive Michael Waltrip Racing season. (Photo: Getty Images)


There’s really no scientific reason why NASCAR brings its top divisions to road courses. All you have to do is pull out a map of the United States.

Forget the theory that the sanctioning body is interested in diversifying its schedules so that it is a true reflection of different disciplines of competition.

NASCAR takes the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series to a combined five road courses in 2012 for only one reason - to expand the exposure of the sport.

It’s nice to get nostalgic about racing on Daytona Beach and running through the hills of the Southeast in the moonshine days.

None of that have anything to do with why Sonoma, Watkins Glen, Montreal and Road America are on the schedules.

When Riverside shut its doors in the late 1980s, NASCAR - and rightfully so - did not want to lose the California market. Unfortunately there weren't any oval tracks suitable to host the Cup Series in the Golden State so what was then known as Sears Point Int'l Raceway was added to the calendar and the lucrative Northern California market was served.

Ditto with Watkins Glen, which at the time was the only venue available to bring Sprint Cup racing to the Northeast when the historic road course was put on the slate.

Bringing NASCAR to Canada is a great idea but again there aren't any ovals that can truly host the Nationwide Series north of the border so the series now visits Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve.

And when the Milwaukee Mile had its latest bout of financial problems, NASCAR stayed in the popular Wisconsin area with this past weekend's inaugural visit to the sprawling Road America road course.

In most all cases the style of racing just isn't suited to the lumbering stock cars. Up until a couple years ago with the introduction of double file restarts, more often than not road course racing was a lot more like Sunday’s race at Sonoma. Long and tedious stretches of cars stretched out around the circuit.

I've warmed up to watching NASCAR go road racing some and the action has been better in recent years. But I still believe the sport was founded on oval tracks and should stay there.

Road courses are for cars designed to compete in that style of racing. You don't see the sports cars of the Rolex Grand Am Series with an oval track on its schedule for a good reason - those machines are purposely built to compete going left and right.

Stock cars are not. And when they need to be modified it gets expensive. There have been stories of some underfunded Nationwide teams needing to find $40,000 just for brake packages alone.

The marriage of NASCAR and road courses is a forced one. It serves the purpose of bringing the sport to important areas of the country – and internationally – and nothing more.

  • What was billed as potentially the most exciting race of the year Sunday in Sonoma was a major let down. Sunday’s Toyota Save Mart 350 was more in line with what Sprint Cup Series road course racing used to be like and didn’t at all resemble the rough and tumble outings of the last few seasons. The trend of limited caution flags continued even in the tight quarters of the twisting northern California road circuit.
  • Clint Bowyer’s win added an exclamation point to the already impressive Michael Waltrip Racing season. Bowyer’s teammates Brian Vickers and Martin Truex Jr. also performed extremely well as MWR continues to be one of the most consistent organizations in the series. Although not usually considered among the sport’s best road racers, Bowyer has turned himself into a major force when the schedule calls for turning left and right.
  • Speaking of impressive, the entire weekend was just that for Kurt Busch. After coming from the back of the field to finish in the top 10 Saturday at Road America’s Nationwide Series race, Busch followed that up with an inspirational run to a third place effort in Sonoma. His post race comments on Sunday were emotional and perhaps the talented yet tempestuous Busch has turned a corner.
  • Speaking of Road America, Saturday’s Nationwide event was another entertaining and competitive outing for NASCAR’s number two series at the Wisconsin circuit. A stellar crowd came out for the Grand Am-Nationwide doubleheader and was treated to fine summer weather and great racing. The Sargento 200 wasn’t as rough and tumble as last year’s race but certainly had its moments ending in an emotional win for Nelson Piquet Jr. The annual trip to the Badger State has become a favorite.

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