Mash The Gas – Road Course Preview

NASCAR takes a break from its traditional oval track settings this weekend as the Sprint Cup Series heads to the road course in Sonoma, California while the Nationwide Series treks to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to take on the heralded Road America circuit. The road course races have been extremely competitive the past few years as the introduction of double-file restarts has produced some slam-bang affairs. There have been seven different winners in the last seven events held at Sonoma and Road America produced a somewhat surprise winner in Reed Sorenson last year.

Marcos Ambrose: This is the place for Ambrose to shine as strong runs of late from this team combined with a race course full of right turns make him the favorite at Sonoma. Ambrose is an accomplished road racer and with a good fast car he should be tough to beat.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Like Ambrose, Montoya is another road course specialist having won at Sonoma in 2007. Montoya is in desperate need of a good run after a mediocre season to date in which the only highlight has been crashing into the jet dryer at Daytona. A win this week would go a long way towards putting this team back in contention for a wildcard spot in The Chase.

A.J. Allmendinger: “The Dinger” has an extensive road racing background which includes several open wheel victories on road courses. This team won this event last year with Kurt Busch which should give Allmendinger confidence as this team also needs a win badly.

Jeff Gordon: Over the years, Gordon has developed extraordinary road racing skills and has been to victory lane at Sonoma five times. With essentially nothing to lose points wise, Gordon’s main goals each week are simple win the race. He can aggressively go after that win this week and should be a factor in the event.

Clint Boyer: Boyer is my long-shot pick this week as he’s quietly racked up a pretty decent statistical record on the road courses. His average finishing position at Sonoma is third best among active drivers, trailing only Gordon and Montoya and things are going well for the team this season. He has yet to win on a road course but as previously noted, there have been seven different winners here in the last seven years, and Bowyer could extend that streak to eight.

Road America:
Ron Fellows: Fellows is set to wheel the potent Hendrick Motorsports #5 entry at Road America and has a ton of experience on the Road America circuit. He has been a contender in every Nationwide Series race held here and looks to improve on last year’s second place finish.

Max Papis: Papis returns to the Richard Childress #33 for the Road America event passionately seeking a victory after being taken out of contention in the final laps last year. If “Mad Max” finds himself in a last lap battle with Jacques Villaneuve there are sure to be fireworks.

Jacques Villaneuve: Villaneuve didn’t make many friends last year with his aggressive driving style en route to a third place finish and his three-wide pass in Canada Corner wowed fans in 2010. The Canadian returns to the #22 Penske Dodge for the 2012 Road America event is all but certain to be a factor in the outcome of the race in one way or another.

Kurt Busch: Busch is doing the double-duty schedule, shuttling back and forth between Sonoma and Road America. He has proven road racing skills and is behind the wheel of his brother’s #54 Toyota. Look for Busch to mix it up with the road course specialists and a victory would be a start to mend the fences in the current rift he has with the media.

Michael McDowell: “McDriver” wheels the Joe Gibbs #18 Toyota for the second consecutive year at this event and the accomplished road racer should be up front again this year. He won the pole position a year ago and was a factor until getting caught up in the late race fireworks. McDowell is skipping the Sprint Cup race at Sonoma to concentrate on getting to victory lane at Road America and this team is plenty capable of getting the job done.

Nelson Piquet Jr.: A former Formula One driver, Piquet definitely has what it takes to win on the road course at Road America. Piquet will pilot the #30 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet and adds his name to an extremely talented field of road course specialists.

The sentimental pick of Wisconsin race fans has to be Bill Prietzel who has scored a one-off ride for Road America in the R3 Motorsports #23 Chevrolet. Prietzel tore it up on the Hales Corners Speedway dirt track in the eighties before moving to the Mid-American Stock Car Series where he won championships and has victories at Road America. Prietzel is a very good road racer and is fulfilling his dream this weekend and has the support of Wisconsin race fans, friends, and family behind him.

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