As the NASCAR race weekend in Sonoma draws closer I’m getting more and more excited. It helps that on Tuesday Cup drivers David Ragan, Travis Kvapil, J.J. Yeley and Sam Hornish Jr. (along with Nationwide Series driver Marcos Ambrose) will be rolling into town to test at Infineon. The testing session (from 8:30am to 4:30pm) is open to the public, free of charge and yeah, I’m so there. Did I even need to say that?
NASCAR has been coming to the San Francisco Bay Area for twenty years now and some of the drivers expressed their thoughts on the road course:
“They have kept up with the times, as well as brought a tremendous amount of diversity to the sport. One of the things that Sonoma has done is bring a different culture, a different type of race fan, which I think is really cool. The racetrack is so unique. It’s very different, the racetrack itself is different. The grounds are different. The location is incredible.”
–Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet
“The track is definitely sentimental to me in terms of spring-boarding my career. Some of the big owners saw me win that (Southwest Series) race, and I was on ESPN that day, and in 1999 they had just changed the track configuration to use the Chute, so a lot of the big teams were watching that day. It was very exciting. We had a great Southwest Series team and ran for the championship that year and Infineon Raceway really put us on the map.”
–Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
“What’s so special about Infineon Raceway is that it’s so difficult. I grew up racing on a three-eighth mile dirt track in Missouri. To come to a twisting, turning, uphill, downhill road course where you’re shifting gears in a 3,400-pound stock car, against guys like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Boris Said is a very, very tough thing. To be able to come here and win a race, I think for any driver, and I know for me would be one of the most satisfying wins in all of NASCAR.”
— Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford
“I was born in Vallejo, right down the road from Sonoma. So to be able to come out and see my family and friends, who I don’t get to see very often, and then we were able to win fairly early in my career out there, which is a lot of fun winning on the road course. And we’ve had a lot of wins since then. To go the last couple of years and have some exciting news and excitement in my personal life, which has all coincided with that race, has been very exciting. And now it gives us something to celebrate every time we come out there. This year we’ll be celebrating Ella’s first birthday when we come out there, so that will be fun.”
— Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
“Infineon Raceway is one race on the schedule that I absolutely love and look forward to coming and running. I mean, I like running the road courses, and we’ve had success out there. We ran really, really well. The people at the racetrack are always great. It’s an awesome crowd that’s very energetic and loves to see the Cup Series run there and it’s a track that I really have a lot of fun driving on so I always look forward to going there.”
— Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota
In other news…
— Did ya hear the news about Casey Mears?? He’s going to be dad! His girlfriend is pregnant with his first child. This tidbit of information was dropped in an article from the AP but Answer This has a little bit more detail. Congrats Casey!
— Clint Bowyer spoke with the media here in the Bay Area today in anticipation of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. When asked if, in this sport, it was important for fans to have someone to dislike Clint had this to say:
“It’s the same way with racing in general or any kind of sport. Everybody loves the winner until they win too much, and then they don’t like them anymore. The guys who have been very successful have seen both sides. Jeff Gordon, you either love him or hate him, but bottom line you respect him. There’s a big difference between a guy like Jeff Gordon and a guy like Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch is winning races and he’s on top, but there’s not that love-hate relationship. I think it has nothing to do with his performance on the track. People don’t respect him because of the things he does when he gets out of the race car.”
And then when asked if it’s easy for fans to find someone to boo Clint said this:
“I think it’s pretty easy. That’s what makes this sport what it is — the personalities. That’s what separates this sport from other sports is that you’re able to get so much closer to these personalities. There are a lot fewer people in this sport, there are only 43, whereas football and baseball there are hundreds. You see a lot more of the personalities of the drivers in this sport. I think it’s a good thing about our sport that it’s so fan friendly and they can get that close to the action.”
And I believe that he’s totally right on both points.