NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Running on a smaller budget is usually not indicative of a great finish, but someone forgot to give Marcos Ambrose that memo. Ambrose once again showed his considerable road-racing skill as he was alternately patient and aggressive in his march from the back of the field (where he was relegated after a pre-race engine change) to third at the checkers. If you aren’t impressed, you must have been watching a different race.

What… was that?

OK, I understand that rules are in place for safety, and I would never, ever want to compromise the safety of any driver… but doesn’t it seem a bit harsh to penalize someone for speeding on pit road when they were .01 mph over the limit? That’s what NASCAR apparently did to the No. 48, who rebounded to finish fourth. One one-hundredth of one mph. Does that actually gain anyone anything?

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

A bump and a flat tire away from a top-10 finish. After sitting on the pole and leading handily in the early going, Brian Vickers had just enough on-track issues to find himself 16th at the end of the day.

When… will I be loved?

There were a lot of drivers who could be singing along with the Everly Brothers this week, but the least-loved award goes to a pair of drivers after Infineon. It seemed as though each time there was a crash that Boris Said was somehow involved, even if it wasn’t entirely his fault. Said could easily hold the award outright, but causing the wreck that takes out the sport’s most popular driver is never a good way to earn any love, so Carl Edwards gets a piece of the action as well. Edwards got into David Ragan (double boos for getting into your own teammate!) and Ragan took Dale Earnhardt Jr. around with him, much to the dismay of Earnhardt Nation.

Why… aren’t there more road-course races?

Not only did Sunday provide some of the most exciting side-by-side racing of the year, but it really tested the mettle of drivers and teams alike. Add that to the fact that teams do have to build specialty cars (though not as much so with the new car) for only two tracks when their efforts would be better appreciated with four, and there are a number of compelling reasons to add a few more right turns throughout the season. And if you want to crown the best driver champion, please, please get a road course in the Chase.

How… do the points shake down after the first road race of the season?

There weren’t a ton of changes in the top dozen, though Mark Martin moves a step higher toward Chase safety and road ace Juan Pablo Montoya, who has quietly put together a very, very good season, raced his way into 12th spot. Jeff Burton took a three-spot tumble to fall out of the top 12, leaving not a single Richard Childress Racing team in the Chase field as of now. That’s quite a change from a year ago, when all three RCR machines made the Chase handily.

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