Tuesday Takeaways From Sonoma

D.Patrick

MRN’s Pete Pistone is cleaning out his notebook after Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, citing yet another disappointing day for Danica Patrick. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Cleaning out the notebook after Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway:

Road-Course Ringers Silenced
The road-racing specialists brought in for Sunday’s Sonoma race didn’t enjoy much success. The best of the bunch was Billy Johnson, who replaced Darrell Wallace Jr. in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. Johnson didn’t qualify well but was running in the top 10 at one point before finishing 22nd.

Johnson’s road-race colleagues didn’t fare much better with Boris Said 29th, Alon Day 32nd, Kevin O’Connell 33rd, Tommy Regan 34th and Josh Bilicki 36th. To be fair, none of those drivers were in top-notch equipment.

But the idea that drivers who are experts at the discipline of road racing in other forms of motor sports – whether it be sports cars or open wheel – can jump into a heavy stock car and adapt overnight is flawed. More often than not, NASCAR regulars have the upper hand knowing the nuances and characteristics of the machines they drive on a weekly basis. Throw in the road-racing skills today’s Cup Series drivers have on their own and the need to bring in outsiders to make an impact is negligible.

Challenging Road
There were a number of drivers in Sunday’s race that saw their season-long struggles continue. Danica Patrick showed some promise with a good qualifying effort but battled trouble from the start of the race, involved in at least two incidents.

Kasey Kahne’s day ended with one of the biggest crashes when he slammed the wall on the last lap. The impact destroyed Kahne’s car. Thankfully, he walked away uninjured but ended up in 24th place.

The future for both is more than murky and at this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either Patrick or Kahne in different situations for 2018.

Stages Here to Stay
The introduction of stage racing to NASCAR’s top tiers appears to be going well in the sanctioning body’s eyes.

“Definitely here to stay,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

There has been speculation that the format may continue to be tweaked in terms of stage lengths or even expanding from three to four, as was the case for this year’s Coca-Cola 600. O’Donnell admitted conversations regarding the format are always taking place.

“We’ll sit down with the same group that came up with that concept,” he said. “We like what we’ve seen and the industry does as well, the strategy that’s playing out. Do you add one? Do you look at the different stages in terms of lengths, the number of caution laps, maybe starting the second stage from Lap 1 instead of eight laps in?

“A lot of those things will be on the table for us, but we continue to be enthusiastic about how those are playing out each weekend.”

Next Man Up
Kyle Busch is already without crew chief Adam Stevens, who is serving a four-race suspension for an infraction at Dover. Now, Busch will most likely be looking for a replacement for Stevens’ replacement.

Ben Beshore faces a one-race suspension for Busch’s fifth-place car having two loose lug nuts after Sunday’s Sonoma race. NASCAR is expected to make a final decision on Wednesday but if that penalty stands, Joe Gibbs Racing will have to dig deeper on its bench to find someone to call the shots for Busch this coming weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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