June 20, 2008
Experts' Picks: Toyota/Save Mart 350
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Though Stewart has struggled for much of this season, he's one of the best road course racers in NASCAR. He's won at Sonoma twice and is always a threat to take the checkers when the circuit stops at a track that requires both left and right turns.
Keep an eye on: Juan Pablo Montoya -- Montoya won this race last year on a fuel mileage gamble, but don't be fooled by that. Unlike nearly every other Cup regular, Montoya grew up racing on road courses. These are bread-and-butter tracks, and it would be an upset if he didn't finish in the top-three on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Matt Kenseth -- Though Kenseth is on a nice roll right now -- he's finished in the top-10 in five straight races -- he's not a fan of road course racing, and it shows. In eight career starts at Sonoma, his average finish is 23.5.
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Mr. Furious is simply terrific at Infineon, where he's won twice, finished in the top five a total of five times in nine starts and owns a driver rating of 113.9, the highest of anybody in the top 12 of the point standings. Plus-and this is significant when discussing Stewart -- based on his radio communications with crew chief Greg Zipadelli last week, it's clear that he's starting to get really, really mad.
Keep an eye on: Jeff Gordon -- Can he put his season back on track this weekend? Gordon has been running better of late, but he's got to be troubled by last week's race at Michigan, in which was nothing short of lousy while teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson spent most of the day running in the top five. Expect Gordon and Stewart to spend lots of time near the front on Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- He's proven me wrong when I've picked him in this spot before, but I don't think Sonoma is a place where Kahne will be looking to do anything but finish in the top 20 or so. In four starts, he's never finished in the top 10, while his average finish is a gruesome 31.5. Turning left is what this man does best.
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Controversy's brewing over at the No. 20, which has historically proven to be a good thing for a team in need of a kickstart. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli is claiming Stewart's indecision on his future is hurting the present; so, what better place to put a Band-Aid on the past than Infineon, where Stewart's won twice and collected five top 10s in nine starts.
Keep an eye on: Road course ringers -- The chances of them winning are remote, but drivers like Boris Said and Ron Fellows could pull a top 5 surprise in the Sonoma Valley. Both hope to make their 2008 debut this weekend, and have a history of success on Infineon's 1.99-mile twisty road course; between them, they have six career top 10s in 14 starts.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Junior may have gotten the monkey off his back at Michigan, but don't expect a second straight win for the driver of the No. 88 Chevy. In eight career starts, he's yet to score a top 10 at Infineon, a track where he barely escaped a fiery crash in a sports car race in '04.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: Gordon on has won five times at the Sonoma, Calif., road course since 1998, twice in the last four years and was seventh last year. He's the last of the Hendrick drivers who have won more than one career race -- Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- to reach Victory Lane.
Keep an eye on: Juan Pablo Montoya -- He won his first and only Sprint Cup race by leading just seven laps at Sonoma last year. He also won a Nationwide Series race on a road course last year. It was assumed the former Formula One and CART driver would excel away from ovals. Good assumption. This season has been otherwise miserable, with three crew chiefs and a 22nd placing in the points. He's ready for a feel-good afternoon again.
Don't expect much from: Jamie McMurray -- He started from the pole in this race last season and led 30 laps but was relegated to his normal performance at Sonoma. Actually worse, 37th. Since finishing second in '04 he's been 13th, 18th and 37th.
  My Pick: Robby Gordon
Why he'll win: He should have won this race last year instead of Juan Montoya, who was able to stretch his fuel mileage longer than the rest. If everyone had to pit, it would have been Robby Gordon in the winner's circle instead. This driver is one of NASCAR's best on the road courses which gives him an advantage over the rest of the competition at Sonoma.
Keep an eye on: Scott Pruett -- Team owner Chip Ganassi has brought in his best road racing driver from his Rolex Grand American team to take over Reed Sorenson's Dodge at Sonoma. With Sorenson's full-time pit crew working with Pruett, this is a combination that could contend for the win.
Don't expect much from: Ryan Newman -- This year's Daytona 500 is fading fast and a road course isn't exactly his style. Team owner Roger Penske would be better off putting Ryan Briscoe in this car for Sonoma but he's off racing in the IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway on Sunday.top-five and five top-10 finishes in 14 previous starts. He was seventh last June and 15th last August.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: Gordon has been Sprint Cup's most successful road racer since '97 with five victories at Infineon and four at Watkins Glen. He's won two of the past four at Infineon. He's smart, smooth and knows how to make the brakes and gearbox go the distance. Gordon is winless this season, the same situation he was in '06 when he won this race. Expect history to repeat itself Sunday.
Keep an eye on: Tony Stewart -- This is the first weekend of summer and that's when Stewart typically starts winning in clusters. He has two wins in nine starts at Infineon and strengthens his road racing credentials with four wins at Watkins Glen, where he won in a memorable late-race duel with Jeff Gordon last year. Smoke will be Gordon's greatest threat Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- He's built up some serious momentum with two wins and a second in the past four races, but he's not happy to see Infineon next on the schedule. Kahne's best finish in four starts is 23rd last year and his average finish is 31.5.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: A road course is just what Gordon needs to jump start a title run. In 15 career starts at Infineon, Gordon has won five times. Gordon has nine career victories on road courses.
Keep an eye on: Juan Pablo Montoya -- Open-wheel veteran Montoya is one of the greatest drivers on road courses in the history of auto racing. In his only Cup start at Infineon, he won last year after starting 32nd -- a remarkable accomplishment considering that the next worst starting spot for an Infineon winner is 13th.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Earnhardt Jr. may have broken his long winless streak last weekend, but don't expect him to start a win streak. Earnhardt has never finished in the top 10 at Infineon in his Cup career, with his best result being 11th in '03 and '04.

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