Tag Archives: Marcos Ambrose

Jeff Gordon and Team Will Put it Together at Sonoma

Last week NASCAR was at the large two mile Michigan International Speedway for some very fast D shaped oval racing where Jeff Gordon led 36 laps but fell victim to the pit strategy of his teammate Jimmie Johnson. This week NASCAR and Jeff Gordon visit a much different speedway. This week is the first road course race of the season at Sonoma Raceway.

The Sonoma Raceway is in Sonoma, California and is a 12 turn road course that is 1.99 miles in length. Road courses are all but impossible to describe in words. The race is 110 laps, 218.9 miles or 350 Kilometers.

Every road course race win requires a great driver who can out brake and out corner the other drivers. It also requires a team that can perform flawlessly since any loss of track position in the pits is terminal. If a team can put that together they also need great pit strategy. The crew chief literally runs the race backwards in his head to figure out what lap would be the earliest they can pit the last time. Then they make their bed, pit and stay out regardless of if a caution flag flies or not. This is where races are won or lost.

Historical driver ratings are a great way to dial into the driver that will do well at any particular race. Road course races are no exception. This week the top of the driver ratings is Marcos Ambrose with a rating of 108.0 followed by Kurt Busch 107.8, Tony Stewart 102.4, Jeff Gordon 101.6, Jimmie Johnson 97.3. Also add in Clint Bowyer at 95.2. Juan Pablo Montoya is not entered into the race.

Each and every one of those drivers would be a great pick to win this race but since you can’t pick them all how do you sort them out? Winning this race requires a great team, not just a great driver, so we need to look deeper. We just so happen to have come from the last three races (Dover, Pocono, Michigan) that sometimes get settled by pit strategy similar to that required at a road course.

The average finish of our selected drivers the past three weeks are Marcos Ambrose 21.6, Kurt Busch 11.3, Tony Stewart 10.3, Jeff Gordon 9.66, Jimmie Johnson 2.66, and Clint Bowyer 8.33.

This is where Jeff Gordon has the edge over everyone except Jimmie Johnson. His low average finish and high driver rating shows he and his team have the edge. He also leads all drivers in wins at Sonoma with five. Only Tony Stewart comes close with two wins.

“I grew up in Vallejo – which is a few miles from the track in Sonoma – but I was always racing on ovals or dirt tracks as a kid. It was much later before I turned my first lap at Sonoma while in a driving school preparing for my first Cup start there.” Gordon added, “I immediately saw the challenges and the fun of racing at Sonoma and on road courses. We’ve worked hard as a team to be competitive on road courses and we’ve had a lot of success at Sonoma. But it’s not an easy track to conquer.

We started the season with there being talk about Jeff Gordon retiring, but the reality is Gordon isn’t driving like he is going to retire. He is having one of the best seasons he has had in a long time. He currently leads the standings in points and has already won a race and will be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Look for Gordon to be the first repeat winner at Sonoma in nine years.

If you cannot get to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, it will be broadcast on TNT Sunday, June 22nd at 2 PM ET. Green Flag is 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 287292 Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Sonoma
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 108.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 107.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 102.4
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 97.3
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 95.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 88.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 88.0
Carl Edwards………………………… 86.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.

2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Bubble Watch

It’s the NASCARAll-Star break, a perfect time to size up the standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As I wrote back in March at the rate we’re going we just might have 16 race winners or more. So where do we stand right now?
Current Chase for the Sprint Cup Seeding
Driver Points Wins
Joey Logano

346

2

Kevin Harvick

302

2

Jeff Gordon

394

1

Kyle Busch

373

1

Carl Edwards

367

1

Brad Keselowski

326

1

Denny Hamlin

318

1

Kurt Busch

211

1

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

368

1

Matt Kenseth

379

0

Jimmie Johnson

340

0

Ryan Newman

332

0

Greg Biffle

328

0

Brian Vickers

327

0

Kyle Larson

318

0

Austin Dillon

306

0

There are seven drivers who are in the Chase right now based on points, but every new driver that wins a race takes one of those positions away and bumps the driver on the bubble out. That is unless one who is already in on points wins. In this case Austin Dillon is on the bubble.

There are 15 races left. If we have eight or more new winners then there will be no drivers left on the bubble. So the question is which drivers, who have not won yet, will most certainly win?

Jimmie Johnson – It is impossible to imagine Jimmie Johnson not winning a race in the next 15. His longest streak without winning a race is 21 (’11) so it isn’t out of the question that he will win.  In 2011 his streak outside of the Chase was 15 races, since his win came in the Chase. Semantics aside, Jimmie Johnson will win at least one race before the Chase.

Matt Kenseth – He has been on a roll if not on a mission since moving from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing, winning a Matt Kenseth record of seven races last year. Considering his teammates have each won a race this year and he has eight top ten races in 2011, Matt Kenseth has got this. He will also win a race before the Chase.

Tony Stewart – Tony Stewart has not been getting it done since he got back into the car from injury. Then again, Stewart doesn’t normally get it done until the weather gets warm and the tracks get hot and slippery. He will win a race during the heat of the summer and add his name to the Chase.

Those are the three drivers I think you can count on to win at least one race and put themselves solidly in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Who is left that certainly has the capability to pull off a win? In order of Driver points these are the drivers that are plenty capable of winning a race in the next 15. We can expect this to happen.

Greg Biffle – The Biff, as he is called, has been hot and cold this year. When he has been hot he has been there contending for the win. That is exactly the type of driving this format for the Chase was designed to promote. Kurt Busch, who is currently 28th in points, resembles that remark. Greg Biffle will do the same.

Kyle Larson – NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson is racing his heart out. He is a rookie but racing like a veteran. He has nothing to prove and nothing to hold him back. Just like Biffle above he is going to connect on one of these and win a race.

Kasey Kahne – Kahne has been expected to improve after being getting paired up with Kenny Francis; his crew chief when he was having his best years. It hasn’t happened. Four top ten finishes and only one top five isn’t going to get it done. There is hope; he had two eleventh place finishes and his teammates seem to be getting it done. Expect Kahne to pull one off to get in the Chase.

Marcos Ambrose – NASCAR hasn’t visited the road courses yet. All of Ambrose’s Sprint Cup Series wins has come on road courses. With two fifth place finishes at short tracks, Marcos Ambrose can get it done. He has two chances to win at a road course to put his name in the Chase. NASCAR also goes back to Bristol where he finished fifth this season.

Here are some drivers who, for whatever reason, are not getting it done but are capable of improving and/or pulling off a single win this season to take themselves into the Chase. In order of current point standings, we have:

Ryan Newman – Like most drivers who moved to a totally new team, Ryan Newman is struggling. He maybe eighth in the points currently but with only four top ten finishes he is hardly lighting the series on fire. But like all new drivers this veteran will eventually improve. He just might get a win before the Chase begins.

Brian Vickers – Statistically Vickers is tenth in points and behind Newman, but with two top five finishes he just might have a better chance than Newman to pull off a single win.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer has two DNF’s this season but he has as many top ten finishes as Newman including a top five. If he can keep it together he will pull off a win and make it into the Chase.

There are currently seven spaces open for a new winner. The list above consists of ten drivers who are plenty capable of winning. There are 15 races left to get those seven new winners. The odds look pretty good that we will have sixteen different winners and we will quite possibly be bumping drivers out of the Chase during the last race at Richmond International Raceway.

NASCAR hit a home run with this new Chase for the Sprint Cup Format. The next 15 races are going to be exciting as ever watching drivers race hard for the win and bumping other drivers who have not won out of the Chase.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: David Banks/ NASCAR via Getty Images