While the 66 degree F temperature at Infineon Raceway didn’t reach the forecast 80 degrees, it was still nice and warm with blue skies and a bit more of a breeze. The drivers had their meeting, their Driver Intros and then the obligatory parade lap around the course in a convoy of red, white and blue Toyota Tundra trucks, all decked out with an American flag. It’s Father’s Day for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 race and many of the drivers are or about to be Fathers. The latest to so announce is JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Chevrolet.
Turn Eleven has been designated by Brembo Brakes as the NASCAR corner hardest on brakes. Consider this. The drivers are running at 140 mph coming into the last horseshoe before the front straight, and have to slow down to 37 mph. That’s hard on brakes. It’s also the corner where the brakes are on for the longest time – 4.9 seconds.
The second most difficult corner at Infineon is Turn Seven. The drivers are on the brakes for 1.7 seconds, after slowing from 116 mph to 45 mph.
Unless conditions warrant, NASCAR said the race cautions would be “quickies.”
One of the interesting Road Race experts making a one-off appearance this weekend is Dane JAN MAGNUSSEN/No.09 Chevrolet. He comes here via a circuitous (pun intended) route. Magnussen, who is a GM factory driver competing full time in the GT2 Corvette in the American Le Mans Series and Le Mans, was asked to help Hendrick (Hendrick Engines) to help develop the road race cars. Magnussen said he is the same size as MARK MARTIN/No.5 Chevrolet, and has tested four times at the Kershaw road course.
Magnussen said his Hendrick development work was not related to his being asked to run the Infineon race. The Phoenix Racing team is running Hendrick engines. The team is owned by JAMES FINCH, and there has been a lot of speculation as to who its 2011 driver will be. The name bandied about the most is the Infineon pole sitter, KASEY KAHNE, who has been signed to drive next year for RICK HENDRICK. The problem is that Hendrick already has four drivers, who aren’t going anywhere. Some speculation is that Kahne would drive for Finch for one year, until Hendrick had a driver vacancy.
Prior to Qualifying, Magnussen said that NASCAR qualifying is not how he normally qualifies. Here he just wanted to run a fast, safe lap. Magnussen qualified thirty-second.
Driving a stock car is unlike anything else, said Magnussen, who said he is very deliberate in his driving. The Cup car has only four gears. He agrees with SCOTT SPEED/No.82 Toyota that the view from a stock car is much better than from an open wheel car, even with all the body work and confining safety requirements. Both Magnussen and Speed have raced Formula One. Magnussen said he sits higher in the stock car, whereas the open wheel cars sit much lower on the track.
Magnussen, who has raced seven times at Infineon in sports cars but never the Corvette, said Infineon is a challenging course. He started racing with GM in 2004 as the third Corvette driver for endurance races, and full time in 2007. He co-drives with JOHNNY O’CONNELL.
The only oval Magnussen has raced was at Chicagoland with Champ Car. He started racing in the United States in 1999, and prior to that raced karts for seven years. Magnussen has raced in many different types of races, and has one yet left to try. He’d like to run the Baja off-road race, and there have been talks towards that end.
Due to a conflict with the Mid-Ohio ALMS race, Magnussen won’t be able to race the NASCAR Cup race at Watkins Glen.
DENNIS O’ DONNELL, local CBS sportscaster, had been covering the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach but came to Infineon for Sunday. “Where else can I go from the serenity and peace of golf to the noise, lug nuts and grease of NASCAR?”