Although he had no previous road course wins, Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch looked like a road course ace Sunday at Infineon Speedway.
Using a two pit stop strategy and leading 75 of the 110 laps in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, Busch dominated the event while the others fought it out behind him.
“It was one of those unbelievable days where having a game plan going in, we weren’t questioning it, it was just old school on how we were going to make it on two stops,” Busch said.
Following this weekend’s practice, Busch and crew chief Steve Addington knew the majority of the field would have to make three stops and adjusted their strategy to make it on two stops.
“So my thought was inside the car, ‘Well, I need to continue to push this car hard and run a lap time that won’t allow those guys with fresh tires to chop off and be able to catch us,’” he said. “It was just one of those feelings where the crew was helping me, I was helping them, and the race played out perfectly for us.”
While Busch was busy driving away with the victory, beating and banging and payback were the name of the game for most of the competition as they worked around the 11-turn road course in Sonoma.
Here is a breakdown of who is mad at whom:
Brian Vickers versus Tony Stewart
The biggest payback of the day came when Brian Vickers got into Tony Stewart with less than 20 laps remaining.
Earlier in the race, Kyle Busch ran off course, kicking up a dirt cloud as the field headed into the hairpin Turn 11. Behind Busch, Vickers moved down the track to avoid the No. 18 Toyota and was shoved into the corner by Stewart.
The contact sent Vickers hard into the tires and damaged both the front and the rear of the car.
Making repairs, Vickers went back out on the track and waited until Stewart moved past headed into the final corner. As Stewart made the move past, Vickers got into the back of the No. 14 Chevrolet and sent him hard into the tire barrier along the wall.
"I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier but I dumped him because he was blocking,” Stewart said. “If anybody wants to block all year that’s what I’m going to keep doing so they can handle it however they want. It was payback, but I dumped him first and I dumped him because he was blocking. I’ve been complaining about the way guys have been racing all year. I like Brian, I’m not holding it against him at all. I don’t care if it was Ryan Newman I would have dumped him too. If they want to block that’s what is going to happen to them every time for the rest of my career."
“I wasn’t blocking him,” Vickers said. “That may have been his perception where he was sitting. You know, the 18 (Kyle Busch) went off the race track in front of me – he was flying through the dirt. He was coming back on the race track and I was trying to avoid him. You know the cars in front of me were slow and I was in the inside of the guy in front of me. It’s pretty early in the race to worry about blocking someone or wrecking someone.
"I think when he sees the replay and he realizes why I went low, he’ll realize that if he looks out my front windshield, he’ll realize it had nothing to do with him, it had to do with the 18 almost wrecking and a couple other guys slow up top. You know, it’s unfortunate. He made his bed at that moment and he had to sleep in it.”
Robby Gordon versus Joey Logano
Following a restart 50 laps into the race, Robby Gordon threw a huge block on Joey Logano as they battled for the 13th spot. Committed to the move, Logano hung on Gordon’s back bumper and shoved Gordon’s No. 7 straight through the corner.
“He took me out,” Gordon told SBNation.com’s Jeff Gluck. “I passed him clean, and I guess he didn’t think it was clean. I guess I need to pull a Richard Childress on him, just not at the racetrack.”
“He was running me all over the race track,” Logano said. “He knocked my fender in for no reason. We were a lot, lot faster than him. I just had enough. I wasn’t going to get pushed around. He pushed around before and I was sick of it. I think that’s a small story. That’s not a big deal.”
Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski versus Juan Pablo Montoya
Battling for the fourth spot late in the race, Juan Pablo Montoya drove hard up the hill and into the side of Kasey Kahne’s No. 4 Toyota in the second corner. The contact ruined Kahne’s day and left him upset with Montoya’s driving style.
“Montoya just drove through me at the top of the hill, that’s just obvious,” Kahne said. “Last year when (the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) cars were really, really good and Jamie McMurray was the man, Juan still couldn’t win a race. That shows about what he can do here in NASCAR anyways.
“He got mad probably because I beat him into Turn 1 when he was beside me off of (Turn) 11, so he just got mad and wrecked me into (Turn) 2,” he said. “That’s why he got mad – he didn’t get mad because I didn’t give him any room.”
Just laps later, Montoya was racing hard with Brad Keselowski for the fifth spot when Keselowski spun the No. 42 Chevrolet.
"It’s eat or be eaten sometimes on these road courses, and when that guy behind you opens his mouth and is about to put you down his throat, you better make a move,” Keselowski said. “(It is) nothing I take pride in, but more or less survival more than anything else.
"The body language of Juan’s car said he was going to wreck me,” he said. "I just made sure that didn’t happen.”
For Montoya, the rough racing was a result of drivers not giving him enough room on the track.
“(Kahne) was the first car, I got beside him and he knocked me a couple of times and they just don’t give me any room so it was hard,” he said. “(Keselowski), I got on his bumper moved him a little bit, got beside him and passed him and he just plain and simple wrecked us. It’s hard when people don’t know how to race on road courses and think they do. It’s okay. We had fun, we have a good car.”