How are drivers approaching Sonoma? Depends on who you are
JUN 19, 2014 10:45a ET
I think this new Chase format and how you qualify for the Chase in 2014 has really changed the perception of road-course racing in NASCAR. Part of that is for the good, but part of that might not be so good.
The interesting scenario to follow this weekend at Sonoma is how the guys who already have a win approach things. How do the guys who already have two wins and are guaranteed a spot in the Chase approach Sonoma?
I'm not saying that people like Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson or Joey Logano who have two wins aren't going to try to win Sunday. I'm just saying there is no road-course race in the Chase, so their time is better served testing at other style tracks that are in the Chase instead of taking time, effort and money to worry about testing for Sonoma or Watkins Glen.
For the drivers who only have one win and especially for the drivers who have yet to win this year, Sunday at Sonoma is just as important to them right now as Daytona was in February or Bristol in March, for example. With two wins, you are locked into the Chase. With one win you are pretty confident you are in the Chase. With no wins right now, the pressure is definitely building just like these hot summer temperatures because, before we know it, we are going to be in Richmond in mid-September with a lot of drivers on the outside looking in.
There's drivers out there who have won on a road course in the past but have yet to win this year. Sunday is a perfect opportunity if they can seize it for Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne and others to punch their ticket into the Chase. For some drivers, this might be their best and only opportunity to snag away a win from the dominant teams.
This is the perfect opportunity to catch some of these guys like Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick who might not be as razor-sharp on Sunday. If you can catch them at, say, 98 percent instead of their normal 100 percent, then you need to jump all over it and capitalize on the opportunity.
The other thing I want to mention that I have found interesting this week is some of the discussion and interviews I have heard from some of these drivers already locked into the Chase. Reading between the lines and what I am hearing is that the folks who are locked into the Chase already have a different mindset at tracks that aren't in the Chase. This weekend is a perfect example of that.
A lot of folks have clamored for a number of years that there needs to be a road-course race in the Chase. Maybe now NASCAR is seeing and hearing why they should possibly realign future Chase races and include a road-course race.