No, Busch doesn't have the best average finish (15th) at Sonoma, but he swept both road course races in 2008 -- which is why he leads the picks. While Busch grew up on ovals throughout most of his career, he spent his Vegas winters racing Legends cars on road courses. That experience did not transfer to NASCAR. Rowdy admits the first three years he was "terrible in a Cup car" and "ran into everything." Last year, everything came to fruition. His reasoning? Time.
Keep an eye on: David Gilliland
Gilliland, who finished second in last year's SaveMart 350, is no stranger to Infineon Raceway. Like his four-time winning father Butch, Gilliland won the West Series race in 2007. Gilliland's team, TRG Motorsports, is headquartered in nearby Petaluma, where owner Kevin Buckler also distributes the award-winning Adobe Road wine.
Keep an eye on: Sam Hornish
Like most open-wheelers, Hornish started his career in go-karts and has proficiency on road courses that he's yet to display in NASCAR. Hornish finished 31st in his Sonoma Cup debut, however, in Indy cars the former IRL champ posted finishes of fifth and ninth in his last two starts (2006-7).
Keep an eye on: Marcos Ambrose
Ambrose, who won his first NASCAR race in the Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen last August then finished a career-high third in the companion Cup event, says road course racing is "all about technique." Ambrose dropped out in his Sonoma debut in 42nd position last year when his transmission failed.
Keep an eye on: Robby Gordon
Robby Gordon will spare no expense at NASCAR's two road course events because the circuits provide his best opportunity to win. His only victory on the 1.99-mile circuit was in 2003 while driving for Richard Childress. In 11 Infineon starts, Gordon has scored two top-five and three top-10 finishes. Robby Gordon Motorsports will field a second car this weekend for fellow Californian P.J. Jones.
Not the usual suspects: Ryan Newman
Like his teammate/owner Tony Stewart, Newman has the opportunity to excel at Infineon Raceway with Hendrick-based equipment. However, Newman's previous record of two top-five and five top-10 finishes with Penske-powered cars on the road courses was solid. In seven starts, Newman posted two top fives, five top 10s, and his 9.4 average finish is better than his boss.
Not the usual suspects: Mark Martin
With Martin's average finish of 10th at Infineon Raceway, it's curious that he hasn't raced at the 1.99-mile circuit since 2006. But as the 50-year-old veteran proved last week at Michigan, he hasn't lost his edge or his ability to save fuel mileage. Martin has scored a remarkable 13 top 10s in 18 Sonoma starts. He has four career wins on road courses.
Not the usual suspects: Clint Bowyer
In the last two Sonoma races, Bowyer has finished fourth twice and scored the third most points behind Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch. Bowyer admits that road course racing initially intimidated the former dirt-tracker. Yet after finishing 16th his rookie season, Bowyer adapted quickly to turning left and right at Infineon Raceway, where his record is considerably better than at Watkins Glen.
Blue chips: Tony Stewart
In addition to Jeff Gordon, Smoke is the only other current driver on the tour with multiple Infineon wins. Now with Hendrick chassis and engines, it will be interesting to watch how Stewart battles Gordon and what strategy will come into play with the new team. In addition to two wins (2001, 2005), Stewart has posted three top fives and six top-10 finishes in 10 starts.
Blue chips: Juan Pablo Montoya
Having the former Monaco Grand Prix victor in a NASCAR field is like bringing Albert Pujols to play in the company softball game. Montoya's debut at Infineon Raceway in 2007 resulted in a trip to Victory Lane. He tops the tour with an average finish of 3.5. Although Ganassi Racing isn't known for the most consistent equipment throughout the season, it seldom skimps on road course cars.
Blue chips: Jeff Gordon
The Vallejo native loves putting on a show for his hometown fans and Sunday will be no different. Gordon leads the tour with five wins, five poles and 437 laps led at Sonoma. In 16 starts, he's scored a remarkable 10 top fives and 12 top 10s with an average finish of 9.3.