For the first 15 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, it's been nothing but fast speedway action across the country. Drivers have dropped the hammer constantly, turning left on treacherous turns before racing at nearly blinding speeds on straights.
However, the Cup circuit will take a dramatic shift -- literally. Infineon Raceway plays host to round 16 of 36 for the top series of stock car racing, where 43 teams will combat with the always challenging 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course in Sonoma, CA.
Fans will hear terms like "short pitting," "heel and toe," and "road ringers" as often as TNT's Larry McReynolds shouting "side-by-side" excitedly next week during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. As intricate as those words sound, it's probably as simple as wondering why there aren't any road courses in the Chase.
Short pitting simply means that drivers and teams will "plan their pit stops backwards." Normally, pit stops are planned in terms of a pit window, like 30-40 laps at Michigan. At Infineon, pit stops will be planned backwards in that a crew chief will want their driver to pit ahead of their competition in the event a caution flag waves.
If a yellow flag period commences before a driver has pitted, it's advantageous at a road course due to the time it takes to negotiate around a long race circuit. Unlike at ovals where it's ideal to pit as far as you can in a pit window, you'd want to pit as soon as possible.
Heel and toe simply refers to a method that some racers mash the gas and brake pedals while shifting gears. Notably, road ringers, or drivers who only participate in the road course events in the top-three NASCAR series, will use this tactic, as it allows them to build a better ruin heading into a corner.
Ideally, three to four pit stops are common at Infineon, but if this year's race is anything like 2010's crash fest, fuel mileage will come into play, which will call for an extra stop or two to ensure that a driver will make it to a finish, extended or not.
Enough with the terminology - you want to know who'll win this Sunday, right? Well, you're at the right site and reading the right slideshow, because we're "Going Green: Five Faces to Follow For Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway!"