Good morning from sunny Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. It’s a windy 61 degrees and rising, maybe up to 81 degrees F. It’s the Toyota/SavMart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekend, with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West as the support race.
There are 44 entries for the Cup race, so only one driver goes home. Among this weekend’s entries are several ‘road race ringers’ – the name stuck on those drivers who come from road racing backgrounds to run the NASCAR road courses. Because of the long haul from North Carolina, some of the more underfunded ‘regular’ drivers/teams elected to stay home.
Semi-regulars, P.J. JONES/No.77 Speed Energy Dodge, BORIS SAID/No.51 Security Benefit/Thank A Teacher Today Chevrolet, and BRIAN SIMO/No.81 ARMA Energy Ford always enter the Sonoma race.
Making their Sprint Cup debuts are TONY AVE/No.38 Long John Silver’s Ford and ANDY PILGRIM/No.46 Red Line Oil Chevrolet. Ave is the 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am champion. Pilgrim, a factory GM driver, currently races Cadillac in SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge, and has multiple Challenge and IMSA championships to his name.
TOMY DRISSI was set to race No.37 RISE of the PLANET of the APES Ford for Rick Ware Racing for Front Row Motorsports, but NASCAR didn’t clear him to race. Bob Bondurant Racing School instructor, CHRIS COOK of Phoenix AZ. Cook comes from a road racing background in NASCAR, running Sprint Cup, Nationwide and K&N Series.
Another driver ‘change’ on the entry list is for No.No.66 HP Racing LLC Toyota owned by PHIL PARSONS. Sunday’s Cup racer, MICHAEL McDOWELL, is at Road America running the Saturday NASCAR Nationwide Series race, but will be back for Sunday’s Cup race. The car will be practiced and qualified by 29-year old DAVID MAYHEW of Atascadero CA
In the K&N Series, three ‘regulars’ are competing: DAVE GILLILAND/No.9 Sunrise FordJOEY LOGANO/No.18 Toyota, and Said/No.57 Federated Auto Parts Ford.
NASCAR increased current speeds for road courses cautions by five miles at all four NASAR-sanctioned road circuits – Infineon, Watkins Glen International, Road America and Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. JOHN DARBY, NASCAR managing director of competition and Sprint Cup Series director, said the changes “will help alleviate engine strain caused by elevation changes. The way the cars have developed their cars and gear ratios, going up and down hill led to overheating engines, especially during long cautions.”
Pit lane speed increased by five miles at Infineon and Watkins Glen. For this weekend it will be 40 mph, and 35 mph at Road America for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Friday’s schedule calls for practice and qualifying in both NASCAR Series.