2011-06-30 / Local & State

Kurt Busch Gets A First At Infineon

By Gerald Hodges

Kurt Busch Kurt Busch SONOMA, Calif. – Kurt Busch had never won a road course race, but he made it look easy Sunday in the Sprint Cup Toyota/Savemart 350, as he held off Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards at Infineon Raceway on the way to the checkered flag.

“We had an unbelievable setup in the car,” said Busch. “Once we got in the groove, the car just kept getting better and better.”

Jeff Gordon was not one of the dominant drivers, but he was able to work his way toward the front and pass Carl Edwards for second with three laps to go.

“We really struggled, but there at the end, I think we were faster than the leader,” said Gordon. “If we had a few more laps we might have caught him, but that’s the way racing is.”

Carl Edwards, the points leader, was strong throughout the race, but could not keep up with Busch or Gordon in the closing laps.

“We didn’t have the car we needed to win,” said Edwards. “It was good, but I could never get it to handle the way I would have liked to.”

Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Just like on any road course, there was a lot of contact. Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers got into it twice. On the last bump-and-shove, Stewart went into the outside wall, and did not finish the race.

“ He ( Vickers) just dumped me,” said Stewart. “I’m not going to let anyone that races me like that get away with it.”

Vickers did not see it the same way.

“It’s not in my nature to put anyone out of the race,” said Vickers. “Tony came down on me early, so I’m not sure what he’s so sore about.”

Montoya got into several bumping matches with other drivers and finished 22nd.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was never in the race. He was out after 45 laps with mechanical problems.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 16 of 36: 1. Edwards-573, 2. Harvick-548, 3. Johnson- 540, 4. Kurt Busch-539, 5. Kyle Busch-536, 6. Kenseth- 521, 7. Earnhardt-508, 8. Bowyer-498, 9. J. Gordon-480, 10. Newman-475, 11. Hamlin- 463, 12. Stewart-460

Sorenson winner at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – “ This is not the place I thought I’d win a race,” said Reed Sorenson, driver of the No. 32 Dollar General Chevrolet. “I’d never been here before.”

The scheduled 50-lap Nationwide race on Road America’s 4.048-mile road course needed three green-whitecheckered flag attempts to determine a winner.

The race ended under caution, a cloud of uncertainty and drama.

Justin Allgaier took the white flag and had the lead when the seventh and final caution was thrown because Aric Almirola’s No. 88 Chevrolet had stopped on the track in Turn 5. But Allgaier ran out of gas in Turn 6, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether Sorenson or Ron Fellows had inherited the lead – even though Sorenson was running second behind Allgaier, with Fellows third.

Before declaring the winner, NASCAR officials took an extra look at the video feeds. They determined that Fellows had moved ahead of Sorenson after the yellow had been thrown, thus giving the win to Sorenson.

Fellows, who was scored second, was disappointed with his result.

“We got ourselves in a little bit of trouble, anyway,” he said. “For whatever reason, on the restarts toward the end, I just couldn’t get any forward traction.”

Jacques Villeneuve, Elliott Sadler, Mike Wallace, Andrew Ranger, Michael Annett, Ricky Stenhouse, Ricky Carmichael, and J. R. Fitzgerald rounded out the top-10.

The win pushed Sorenson into first in the standings by five points over Sadler.

Top-10 leaders after 16 of 34; 1. Sorenson-568, 2. Sadler- 563, 3. Stenhouse-561, 4. Allgaier 534, 5. Leffler-495, 6. Almirola-493, 7. K. Wallace- 457, 8. S. Wallace-434, 9. Scott-422, 10. Annett-408

It’s midnight for Red Bull and NASCAR

Red Bull Racing found out that NASCAR is not the perfect partner for everyone and every product.

It appears the two- car Red Bull Racing team will shut down, or at least be phased out by the end of this season. The team fields the No. 4 for Kasey Kahne and the No. 83 for Brian Vickers.

Red Bull officials flew from the home office in Austria to Michigan last week to inform team Vice President Jay Frye of their decision.

Two scenarios mentioned for the existing equipment could be Frye bringing in investors and starting a new operation with Mark Martin and engines from Hendrick Motorsports, a plan that Frye had tried to expedite over the last two years with pushback from Austria. The hot rumor of late has been the return of Ray Evernham in an ownership role similar to Tony Stewart’s at SHR, with Red Bull as the sponsor. On Monday, Evernham told FOXSports.com he “ had zero desire to be an owner again.”

Frye said he is optimistic that he can line up investors to keep the organization intact for the 2012 season.

“We have talked to some people who have great enthusiasm about what we’re doing,” Frye said on a conference call. “We believe we can put something together rather quickly in 30 to 45 days. But the process has just started. We had a lot of inquires yesterday. The goal is to keep the Red Bull team continuing on the path it’s on.”

Frye said he couldn’t get specific about ongoing negotiations, because he learned just a few weeks ago that Red Bull might pull out. He said it’s possible Red Bull could stay involved with the team in some capacity in the future.

Funding for the two RBR teams is in the $25-$30 million dollar range for an entire Sprint Cup season. Some speculate the company was not realizing enough advertising return on their investment as the reason for the pullout.

Red Bull energy drink is targeted primarily to young people. Since NASCAR’s demographics show most of their core audience is middle aged and older, this means the NASCAR fans are not ideal candidates to purchase the drink.

The younger generation; from 18-25 years of age are not embracing NASCAR. Most of the core fans are 35 and up. These older (if you can call someone old at 35) fans simply aren’t as interested in purchasing energy drinks like Red Bull.

It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Red Bull and NASCAR were not good dancing partners. Finally, Red Bull realized that fact, and now they can move on to another venue that will give them better value for their advertising dollar.

Weekend racing: The Cup and nationwide teams are at Daytona for the traditional July 4 race weekend. The Trucks do not race again until July 7. Correction: We reported last week that 2011 was the first time NASCAR had raced at the Road America road course. That was incorrect. It was the second time they had appeared at the track.

Friday, July 1, Nationwide Subway 250, race 17 of 34, starting time: 7:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

Saturday, July 2, Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400, race17 of 36, starting time: 7 p.m.; TV: TNT.

Racing trivia question: Which team did Bobby Labonte drive for when he won the 2000 Cup championship?

Last week’s question: Which is the newest NASCAR track? Answer. Kansas and Chicago, which hold Cup races opened in 2001, but there are other, newer tracks (Iowa, Kentucky and Road America) that have hosted Nationwide and Truck races. It was not a clear question, and we apologize.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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