Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who Says Road Courses Are Boring?

I'm baffled by those who say they don't like road courses, because road courses satisfy pretty much every requirement NASCAR fans say they want. Sure, they require drivers to turn left and right, and there are some drivers who would just as soon stick their foot in a meat grinder than turn right, but from a fan's perspective, what could be better?

After watching the Nationwide Series race this past Saturday at Road America, as well as the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday at Infineon Raceway (I still want to call the place Sears Point), I'm wondering why more fans aren't jumping on the left-and-right bandwagon.

Set aside for a moment the winners -- Nationwide Series points leader Reed Sorenson on Saturday and Kurt Busch on Sunday. NASCAR fans are constantly screaming about the so-called cookie cutter tracks, the 1.5-mile tracks that seem to litter the schedule.

Well, the road courses are anything but cookie-cutter. So check.

NASCAR fans say they want action, side-by-side racing with beating and banging and enough fender-rubbing to make a fabricator's head explode. Did you see some of the cars at the end of Sunday's race? With all the bent-up sheet metal and duct tape, it looked like we were at Martinsville, not Sonoma.

Did you see the move Jacques Villeneuve tried to pull in a green-white-checkered on Saturday? Where he tried to make it four-wide on the restart, got his right-side tires into the grass and proceeded to take out Brian Scott and Max Papis? That was a move that would probably lead to the Big One at Daytona or Talladega.

Did you see Tony Stewart dump Brian Vickers? Did you see Vickers pay back Stewart? Did you see Juan Pablo Montoya send Kasey Kahne spinning into the grass? Did you see Brad Keselowski dump Montoya to prevent being wrecked himself?

Why, all that sounds like Bristol before the track added progressive banking.

Everyone points to double-file restarts as the reason road course races have become so rough-and-tumble in recent years, but the restarts were rather calm this past weekend -- Villeneuve's stunt aside. I think we're seeing better road course racing these days because a lot of drivers are getting better at it.

Pretty much all the other incidents I listed above occurred during length green-flag runs.

We're not seeing as many road course ringers as we used to, and the ones we do see aren't doing nearly as well. Boris Said has spent a lot of time in recent years coaching Cup drivers on road course racing, and a lot of testing at places like Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio and Virginia International Raceway have led a lot of guys you might not think of as road course racers to more than hold their own at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

That's making for more competitive -- and more entertaining -- races.

So again, I ask: who says road courses are boring?

NASCAR Gets It Right: To call the end of Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Road America chaotic would be an understatement. Justin Allgaier took the lead from Michael McDowell on the third and final green-white-checkered restart and appeared to be on his way to his second win of the season.

Then the caution came out on the last lap. All Allgaier had to do was make it back to the finish line -- which is hard to do when you're low on fuel and Road America is four miles long. Allgaier ran out of fuel at Turn 6, and then NASCAR spent several minutes trying to determine whether Sorenson or Ron Fellows would be declared the winner.

Sorenson had been second to Allgaier, but at some point on the last lap, Sorenson slowed and Fellows zoomed past for second. Fellows thought he'd won the race; Sorenson thought Fellows passed him after the caution came out.

The video was quite clearly on Sorenson's side.

Fellows clearly passed Sorenson when the caution flag waved -- a clear no-no. NASCAR deserves credit for both taking the time to review the tape after what was a hectic final few laps and for making the right call.

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