The one unique thing for NASCAR when it decides to take to the road courses is that often, different drivers seem to show a chance of winning, or being competitive because it is back in their comfort zone. But at the same time, the road courses on the schedule could not be more different. Later this year, when Watkins Glen comes up, it is a high-speed circuit that often provides more excitement than is ever expected.
But, this weekend at the Sonoma Raceway, the track is all about technique, and quickness, because the 12-turn course is so hard on equipment, one wrong move can take out the competition.
What the fans got was a race that had highlights more suited for a short track instead of a road course. There were spins in tight corners, drivers unable to avoid the accidents in front of them, a hard wreck in a fast section of the track, and even a little strategy in deciding a winner.
It was that strategy that brought forth a winner.
When crew chief Jimmy Fennig decided on two tires on a late stop for Carl Edwards, it was a big gamble, but the key was making the tires last to the end, and not overdrive any corner, or scuff the tires trying to slow down. With a skilled road-ace like Jeff Gordon in the mirror, every corner had to be perfect. When it needed to get done, Edwards did his part behind the wheel, becoming the 10th different winner in the last 10 years at the Sonoma Raceway, and getting to taste the great wine that made the Sonoma County famous to chefs and visitors.
The win didn't give any writers a victory on the season, but in the long run it proved to still be a strong week in the pool. All but four writers scored top-10 finishes, with the top-five in the standings choosing the same driver.
Here's a look at where everyone now is after the Toyota/Save Mart 350:
Kara Martin (605) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 3
Sal Sigala Jr. (583) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 5
Ryan O'Hara (581) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 4
Patti Rodisch (546) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 2
Rob Tiongson (543) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 2
Rob Blount (503) Tony Stewart finished 19th - 1
Billy Fellin (499) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 1
Dustin Parks (493) Tony Stewart finished 19th - 2
Michael Hirshbein (483) Marcos Ambrose finished 8th - 1
Misan Akuya (483) Tony Stewart finished 19th - 1
James Broomhead (468) Marcos Ambrose finished 8th - 2
Aaron Rosser (463) Tony Stewart finished 19th - 1
Next Race: Sunday would be the only road-course race NASCAR will see until August, as the next race on the schedule is back to a style of track which is very familiar to the drivers. It's another 1.5-mile speedway, but it also is the newest one on the circuit.
For just the fourth time, the Sprint Cup Series is heading to the Bluegrass State to compete at the Kentucky Speedway. The first year drivers raced here, the talk was about the crowd, and the traffic pattern. Although that memory still remains, it has certainly been a track where teams do want to win at.
Writers, with a Saturday night race, the short week will go by fast. Have your picks ready by Thursday, June 26, at 10 p.m. ET for the Quaker State 400.