Road courses mean gambles. Road courses mean left and right turns. Road courses mean troublesome time for inexperienced drivers. And road courses mean you have a good chance of seeing Jeff Gordon’s number at the top of the leaderboard.
NASCAR’s all-time road course wins leader extended the record to nine races after winning the Dodge/ Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in the Sonoma Valley of California.
Veteran Terry Labonte, in his final year of competition, lead numerous laps before fading to third at the finish, still an astonishing fact for the team, which with 30 laps to go was projected to be eight laps short on fuel. But Labonte conserved enough fuel to finish the race in the number 96 car to give Hall of Fame Racing it’s best ever finish.
But back to Gordon. The win was his first of 2006, and he was reasonably excited. “This has been just an awesome weekend. Man, I didn’t know if we were ever going to win another one of these races. I knew this team was something special, we just haven’t had a chance to really show it,” he said.
“They gave me such an awesome race car this weekend that I had to get them this win. If we didn’t win with this car, we can’t ever win.”
Ryan Newman passed Labonte with three laps to go to finish in the second position, his best finish of the year, while Labonte finished a remarkable third. The Ford of Greg Biffle finished fourth, and pole sitter Kurt Busch finished fifth. South Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. finished 15th, the second highest rookie.
Busch Series: Two weeks ago at Kentucky Speedway David Gilliland might have started a trend. For the second straight week, a Busch Series regular took home his first career victory in the AT&T 250 at the Milwaukee Mile. But this time the winner was no rookie.
Instead, he was four-year, 85-race veteran Paul Menard. Menard hung on to the lead despite being bumped and nearly crashing out by Kevin Harvick, as well as a green-white-checkered finish to take home the first Busch Series victory of his career.
Harvick was running second at the time when he bumped into the back of Menard. Menard’s car turned almost completely sideways, but he regained control before his car sustained any serious damage. Harvick, on the other hand, would pay.
With three laps to go, immediately after Harvick bumped Menard, he was bumped himself by J.J. Yeley, causing a seven-car wreck in which one driver, rookie Mark McFarland driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team, sustained undisclosed injuries.
“He checked up, and I was right there,” Yeley said. “I couldn’t avoid it.”
Denny Hamlin finished in second, while Yeley pulled his battered car in at third. Jason Leffler, who dominated the race until he spun trying to access pit road with 45 laps to go, finished fourth. Wisconsin native Mike Wallace finished fifth.
Truck Series: Two weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway, Johnny Benson also might have started a trend. But this time, it wasn’t a first career win. It was a second consecutive win for a now two-time career winner as Benson took the checkered flag in the NCTS Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200.
“I can’t believe it. The first one was pretty hard, and everyone said that the second one would come a little easier,” said Benson. “But I didn’t think it would come today.”
Benson hung on late despite charges by the second place finisher Mike Bliss. “Crew Chief Dave Fuge and I were worried about getting lapped today, but we changed everything we could on this truck to get to the front. We had probably the best truck at the end and I would have liked to see 10 more laps,” said Bliss.
“But you know, second place is great, it’s our best finish of the year. We’re excited about it but I’m like ‘Dang, 10 more laps!'”
Bliss was followed by Ron Hornaday, who dominated early, in third, Jack Sprague in fourth and David Reutimann rounding out the top five.
Coming Up: The Nextel Cup and Busch Series head to their usual Fourth of July destination of Daytona International Speedway for their weekend of night racing, while the Truck Series continues it’s Midwest swing by visiting Kansas Speedway. Don’t miss one minute of the bump drafting, high speed, action packed weekend.
Bruce Knoll, 14, of Eldora, can be contacted by email at bknoll email@example.com
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