Looking Back at the 2011 NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway

by on June 27, 2011

in sports

Sonoma, CA – Kurt Busch made it look easy, and it wasn’t only on the track at Infineon Raceway for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 that he did make it look easy.

Kurt Busch in the pits at Sonoma 6-26-11

All weekend he seemed a bit cheerier than the others every time I passed Kurt Busch in the garage. Sure, he had a stern moment or two, but after pacing the pack in one practice session and then playing and tweaking the handling package in others, he seemed to know. Even on pit road just before the green flag (above image), he was all smiles. More so than others, who I think felt like this was going to be a long day.

Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman at Infineon Raceway 6-26-11

Um, why are they staring at me? Whad' I do?

Of course Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. nor Tony Stewart knew what was in store for them, but who does?

In addition to cruising to his first road-course victory, Busch and Addington may have very well sent a message to the garage, with that being that fuel mileage focus is still alive at road-course racing.

Kurt Busch's No. 22 outpacing the field

The No. 22 team’s focus on fuel mileage made it possible for them to go 10 laps longer than everyone else until their first stop for rubber and Sunoco go-juice! This allowed them to make just one additional pit stop and as things worked in their favor, they ended up leading 76 of the 110 laps. It was fuel-mileage poetry at work, and finally, paying off.

On the other hand, short-pitting, which initially made sense to many, didn’t pay off. Especially for other fan favorites.

But this was a driving demonstration of what team and driver conservation can do with a car. They set the pace and forced the hands of other teams as the competition tried to second guess their scenarios in order to capitalize on any issue that the No. 22 Pennsoil car may have had.

Sorry to say, they had no real issues.

Kurt Busch was followed across the line by Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 at Infineon Raceway on 6-26-11

Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost a radiator and was spotted 41st;

Tony Stewart climbed a tire wall and ended up 39th;

Denny Hamlin at Infineon Raceway

Denny Hamlin had track-bar issues that relegated him to 37th;

Andy Pilgrim managed a lead-lap finish of 26th, in front of Ryan Newman who finished 25th.

The car-punting Juan Montoya finished 22nd.

Check out the rest of the finishers order from

http://www.nascar.com/races/cup/2011/16/data/results_unofficial.html

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I also have an album of photos from Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Infineon Raceway.

All photos by Bruce E. Simmons.

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