Five things we learned at Sonoma
The grand plan has rarely worked to the letter for
Busch was nearly flawless on Sunday in winning at Infineon Raceway, leading 76 of 110 laps on just two pit stops, keeping a race replete with ill will and bad behavior deep in his week and creating an afternoon of utter bliss that has been a commodity for the often contentious driver.
"I didn't get to see what's been going on," said Busch, who won for the first time this season and vaulted three spots to fourth in driver points. "I've been part of that chaos in the back over the years. I've been hit by guys going fourth or fifth, gives you a flat tire, you come home 32nd."
Five things we learned at Sonoma:
When he won last week at Michigan, Hamlin had appeared to finally gain some traction in what has been a disappointing follow-up to his 2010 runner-up season. The No. 11 Toyota qualified fourth and led 12 of the first 36 laps at Sonoma, but a Lap 49 brush with
"It is just hard to run with people who have never run well on road courses nor have no experience at it. It cost us a ton of points today," said Montoya, whose two Sprint Cup wins have come at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. "But no, you have to talk to smart people."
Focused on his primary objective of improving on road courses, the Cup points leader recorded his first top-5 finish in seven starts at Sonoma with an encouraging third, being passed late in the race by Gordon, a five-time Sonoma-winner. "It was very tough to watch the race from Road America, but I think staying was the right decision. It paid off today. It worked out. It was a good call," said Edwards, who was replaced in the No. 60 Ford at Road America by Billy Johnson, who finished 33rd because of an engine issue. "We could have finished poorly here and ended up on the fence over there like Tony did or something. Anything can happen. It turned out to be the right call and it paid off, so it was a good move."
But while Stewart shuns responsibility as a liaison between labor and management, he remains the self-appointed purveyor of justice among drivers. Stewart admittedly wrecked Brian Vickers as punishment for what he felt was obvious blocking and an example of "guys pushing the envelope on not working with each other." Vickers, whose nickname is "The Sheriff," issued a cease-and-desist order by planting Stewart into the tires in the same Turn 11 as their initial incident. Neither was remorseful.
"I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier," Stewart said. "But I dumped him because he was blocking, so if anybody wants to block all year, that's what I'm going to keep doing. They can handle it however they want. ... I don't care if it was [teammate/employee]
The quality of racing at Sonoma and Watkins Glen has increased in past years and drivers have come to realize the two road course stops in the 36-race schedule are vitally important to their broader ambitions. Certainly, making 10 percent of the Chase non-oval when it comprises seven percent of the regular season is slightly askew. But plate races comprise just 11 percent (one more race) of the regular season. If NASCAR drivers are to validate themselves as the most talented, versatile in the world, their playoffs need to challenge each skill.