The Nextel Cup drivers are heading West to the wine country of California to wed their new racing machines to the twists and turns of Infineon Raceway. The road course racing complex used to be called Sears Point Raceway, but in 2002 owner Bruton Smith sold the name to the computer technology company.


The Busch Series is in Wisconsin for a Saturday afternoon run, so some of the drivers pulling double-duty are going to be on tight schedules again as they travel between California and Milwaukee. The Craftsman Truck Series also races at Milwaukee Friday.

This will be the first competition at a road course track for the new racecars NASCAR officials are blending into Nextel Cup events this year. The new style racers will also be used at the other road course race in August at Watkins Glen.

The new machines will be used in nine more events this year and at all Nextel Cup races in the 2008 season. The next event for the “Car of Tomorrow” will be at New Hampshire on July 16.

A dozen turns make up the 1.9-mile road course track at Sonoma. The racing facility has been on the NASCAR schedule since 1989.

Jeff Gordon is the master at the California track. Gordon has won five of the last nine races there. His most recent trip to Victory Lane was last year. He has led 437 laps in the 14 races he has run at the speedway since 1993. Mark Martin (161), Ricky Rudd (134) and Robby Gordon (107) are the only other active drivers leading more than 100 laps at Sonoma.

Tony Stewart and Ricky Rudd have two wins each at Sonoma. Stewart’s wins were in 2005 and in 2001. Rudd captured his checkers in 1989 and 2002. That 1989 race was the first event at the track. The California road course events had been run at Riverside International Raceway until it closed in 1988.

Robby Gordon and Mark Martin are the one-timers at Infineon. Martin took the winner’s pay home in 1997. Robby Gordon claimed his win there in 2003.

The top-five finishers of the 2006 Infineon race were Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Terry Labonte, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch. Gordon collected the bonus points for leading the most laps of the race. He was out front for 44 of the 110 laps.

Eight drivers traded the lead nine times. The other drivers leading more than one lap of the race were Kurt Busch (29), Terry Labonte (17), Ryan Newman (11), Kevin Harvick (5) and Jimmie Johnson (2).

There were seven caution flag incidents and the race took just under two hours and 58 minutes to complete.

Kurt Busch was the Bud Pole Award winner with a lap of 93.055 miles-an-hour in qualifying.

Ironman Returns: Two-time champion Terry Labonte will be back behind the wheel of a Nextel Cup race this weekend. Labonte will drive the No. 55 Toyota at Sonoma and at Watkins Glen in case the NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored team needs a championship provision to start the events.

It will be Labonte’s first race this year. He only raced a partial schedule in 2006. Labonte’s championships were in 1984 and 1996.

Michael Waltrip is also using a road course specialist to replace his regular driver in the No. 00. P.J. Jones will drive that car instead of David Reutimann this weekend.

Labonte is one of five drivers that have competed in every Winston/Nextel Cup race run at Sears Point. The others are Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin and Ken Schrader.

Ford Scores: The dry spell for Ford ended at Motor City when Carl Edwards captured the checkered flag. It was only the second victory for the “Blue Oval” crowd. The only other Ford win was way back in February at California. Matt Kenseth drove another one of Jack Roush’s cars in that race.

Dodge and Toyota have yet to score a win in the 2007 season.

Georgia Boys: “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” claimed top honors for the Georgia drivers at Michigan. Elliott started 21st and finished 11th in the No. 21 Ford he has been driving for the Wood Brothers for the past month. It was the best finish the team has registered since last September in Richmond.

Unadilla’s David Ragan started 34th and finished 21st in the Michigan Nextel Cup race. He is ranked 26th in the point standings with one top-five finish this year. David finished eighth in the Busch Series race at Kentucky Speedway. He is ranked sixth in Busch Series points and has registered four top-ten finishes and a pole on his scorecard so far.

Reed Sorenson wasn’t far behind Ragan in the Michigan Nextel run. The Peachtree City driver collected 23rd-place pay and is ranked 24th on the point chart.

Cherokee County’s Chase Miller gets high marks for Busch Series performance at Kentucky. Miller started the No. 9 Dodge from the front row after clocking in the second-fastest lap in qualifying. He stayed on the lead lap and finished 18th. It was Miller’s second race in the series.

Richard Johns started 22nd and finished 28th in his third Busch Series race. The Gwinnett County driver was involved in an early-race fender-bender and was three laps behind the leader at the finish.

Bill Lester had a decent run in his Craftsman Truck at Michigan. The Cobb County driver started fifth and finished 15th in Motor City. Lester holds down 19th-place on the truck point chart.

Alex Garcia, of Morrow, was the only driver filing an entry blank from Georgia in the ARCA/ReMax race at Michigan. Garcia started 32nd and finished 21st in the 100-lap ARCA contest.

Saturday’s Allan Vigil Ford 120 will air from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Newstalk 750 WSB Radio and www.wsbradio.com. For more race information visit our Fastcar Newsdesk at www.captainherb.net.