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Dodge heads west for road-racing challenge

Posted Friday, Jun 19, 2009, 9:58 am in Employee News

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels west to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., this weekend for the first road-course test of the season. Sunday’s race on the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course in the California wine country will be the 16th of 36 point races that make up the 2009 schedule. The Save Mart 350 is the first of two road-course events on this season’s schedule.

With only 10 races remaining in the Race to the Chase, the grind of NASCAR’s summer schedule has kicked into high gear. Sunday’s starting field of 43 cars will ‘turn right’ for the first time this year. Drivers completing all 110 laps will have made a minimum of 1,100 turns (left and right) by the time the checkered flag falls. The key for success is keeping the car on the racing surface. Getting off the asphalt is often an adventure and definitely detrimental to a top-10 finish.

Dodge has earned one Infineon win since returning to Cup racing full-time in 2001. Juan Pablo Montoya drove a Dodge to victory in 2007.

Kasey Kahne(No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) remains within striking distance of the top-12. He is 91 points behind Jeff Burton who currently holds the 12th spot. After the 26th race, the top 12 drivers in the point standings will compete for the season championship and Sprint Cup in the final 10 races. Kahne earned his first career Infineon pole at last year’s event, but knows that success on road courses isn’t how you start, but how you finish.

“Road course racing has been tough for me,” Kahne said. “We’ve qualified well and run some good laps at times. We just don’t finish the races where we want to finish the races. That’s a big part of the whole year and being in the Chase is running well at those tracks. I need to step it up on the road courses for sure and do more than just qualify well. We need to race up front.”

Kurt Busch(No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) will be making his ninth career Cup start at Infineon this weekend. Busch has amassed one pole and three top-five finishes in his eight previous starts. His eighth-place finish last weekend at Michigan moved the Penske Racing driver up one spot in Sprint Cup driver standings. He currently is fourth.

“The demands at Infineon (Raceway) are all—encompassing; pretty much across-the-board,” Busch said. “Most insiders agree that this weekend’s race could come down to a fuel-mileage battle. A super call on pit road could send a team to Victory Lane. A really tight battle could see a guy with the best—handling car get the win.”

All seven Dodge drivers are assured berths in Sunday’s Save Mart 350.

Other notes
• AJ Allmendinger(No. 44 Best Buy Dodge) brings plenty of road-course experience to Richard Petty Motorsports. The California native won five races in 2005 Champ Car competition prior to making his move to NASCAR. He finished second in the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

• Sam Hornish Jr.(No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course debut last season at Infineon. Hornish qualified his Mobil 1 Dodge 17th.

• Elliott Sadler(No. 19 Stanley Dodge) hopes to use his eighth-place finish last weekend at Michigan to jump-start the summer racing calendar. Sadler has both qualified and finished sixth in 10 career Infineon starts.

2009 top 12 drivers (Driver, points)
1. Tony Stewart, 2,189
2. Jeff Gordon, 2,142
3. Jimmie Johnson, 2,047
4. Kurt Busch (Dodge), 1,961
5. Ryan Newman, 1,934
6. Carl Edwards, 1,927
7. Greg Biffle, 1,913
8. Mark Martin, 1,868
9. Kyle Busch, 1,860
10. Denny Hamlin, 1,849
11. Matt Kenseth, 1,848
12. Jeff Burton, 1,810

What you need to know
The Race: Save Mart 350
The Place:Infineon Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 21
Green Flag: 5:16 p.m. (EDT)
The Track: 1.99-mile road course
The Distance: 110 laps/350.24 kilometers
Television: TNT, 4:30 p.m. (EDT)
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