Leave all your left turn jokes behind this week, NASCAR is making right turns too this weekend. The course formally known as Sears Point, formally known as Infineon, will host the first road course race of the year. I feel like this course has had more name changes than Prince or P-Diddy. For now, it's Sonoma Raceway, but they are looking for sponsorship, so that too could soon change.
In the past, when NASCAR made right turns, a slew of " road course ringers" would show up at the track. But no ringer has ever won a road course race, and just four such drivers showed up to Sonoma this weekend and no qualified in the top 20.
The fact of the matter is, being a good road course racer has become an important part of a Sprint Cup drivers repetore. And more and more NASCAR drivers pride themselves on being able to concore right hand turns.
"I haven't gotten good yet. I'm still struggling a little bit," said Denny Hamlin. "It seems like when I come to Sonoma, it just takes me a long time to really get in a rhythm. Watkins Glen -- I seem to always have speed, but Sonoma it's just a lot more technical. There are more corners and it's a slower speed road course. I feel like its very similar to short track racing. The only difference is you're going right because the speed is about the same."
There are a handful of full time NASCAR drivers that have alwayd just had the road course thing down, including Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart.
“I just like the road courses. I’ve always liked Sonoma. It’s really a driver’s track," said Stewart. "It’s tough to make your car drive perfect all day. You can have a really good car, but it’s going to slide around and you’re going to struggle for grip, and that’s what makes it so fun. You have to do the work behind the steering wheel.”
And although he is no longer a full time cup driver, you also have to keep your eye on Robby Gordon whenever NASCAR heads to a road course.
“Even though I have been out of the NASCAR scene for about three months, we have been extremely busy with off-road racing and the introduction of SST. We tested the No. 7 MAPEI / SPEED Energy car last week in South Carolina and look forward to competing with the regular NSCS group this weekend. Sonoma is a fun race track, and we have had great results there so I am looking forward to putting on a good show for our fans,” says Gordon.
Other drivers that have won at Sonoma include Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin (although Martin is not racing this weekend).