Thursday, March 22, 2018

Road has temperamental turns

SONOMA, Calif. — Few drivers expect to go through today's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway without getting a little frustrated with their competitors.

With so few passing zones at Sonoma, double-file restarts and increased parity among drivers, there has been no shortage of accidents — or acts of retaliation — in recent years.

"Most of the wrecks that happen here just happen from people being idiots," driver Jamie McMurray said Friday. "You can't be the guy that's run 17th all day and on the last restart expect you're going to pass six rows of cars in Turn 7. That's what happens here every single year."

Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart said the increased competition level has led to more contact between cars. Last year, though, he spun Brian Vickers in Turn 11 midway through the race. Later, Vickers retaliated by forcing Stewart's car into the tire barrier.

"What causes a lot of it is just that the competition is so close," Stewart said. "With double-file restarts, we're not stringing out like we used to here. The frustration comes more on starts and restarts than it does anything."

MAKING UP, SORT OF: Road-course specialist Boris Said knows he's probably not on Greg Biffle's "Christmas card list" but believes the two are at least on decent terms after they got into an altercation at Watkins Glen last year.

Late in that road-course race in upstate New York, Said bumped into David Ragan, Biffle's then-teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, resulting in a crash that totaled the cars of Ragan and Zephyrhills' David Reutimann.

After the race, according to witnesses, Biffle took at least one swing at Said, who was still in his car. Said got out of his car and went after Biffle, who was then being guarded by his crew.

Later in an interview, Said called Biffle "an unprofessional little scaredy-cat" among other things and added, "he needs a whooping, and I'm going to give it to him." Biffle later tweeted, "Boris, 'the road course ringer' caused that wreck."

Biffle said Friday that he has talked to Said on the phone but that the two have different goals today. Said is not a regular on the Cup circuit. Biffle is third in points and wants to stay in contention.

"I just didn't understand where he was coming from with me being a part-time guy, and I shouldn't drive as aggressively as I can drive. But I was getting paid to do a job, and I can't lay down, you know," Said said. "I have to give it 100 percent. … So it was just one of those things where he was having a bad day and I took some of the brunt of it."

GORDON'S PLANS: Owner/driver Robby Gordon said he believes today's event will be his last this season.

Gordon has no sponsorship lined up beyond this week and has raced only twice this season — the season-opening Daytona 500 and at Phoenix. He has failed to qualify twice since.

"I'd love to go to Watkins Glen, but I don't have a sponsor right now to go there," Gordon said. "So as we sit here right now, there's nothing on the table for anything until next season."

Gordon, 43, said he has money lined up for two races in both 2013 and '14, but he has no intention of attempting to run a full schedule again unless a funding package comes through.

. fast facts

Sprint Cup points

Through 15 of 36 races. The top 10 drivers plus two wild cards (based on wins) through 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Matt Kenseth 565—

D. Earnhardt Jr. 561 4

Greg Biffle 548 17

Jimmie Johnson 532 33

Denny Hamlin 514 51

Kevin Harvick 504 61

Martin Truex 497 68

Tony Stewart 491 74

Clint Bowyer 481 84

Brad Keselowski 458 107

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