Its Buschs Day
KURT BUSCH turns the traditional donuts after his victory Sunday in the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
Notwithstanding the parking lot on Highway 37 and overzealous officers from the CHP shoving photographers inside the crowded winner's circle, the 2011 version of NASCAR's flying circus was an unqualified success, with a robust crowd, excellent weather and enough bump and grind to force some exciting lead changes but not enough for anyone to get hurt.
And it was a huge success for Kurt Busch, who won convincingly; and a not-quite-so-huge success for (sort of) local boy and Infineon hero Jeff Gordon, who has five NASCAR-Infineon victories but none since 2006.
Gordon, who started in 13th position and fell back as far as the mid-20s, ended up in second thanks to some lucky lead changes, yellow flags, patient, judicious driving and a hard charge at the end during which he advanced more than five positions in the closing laps.
As usual, there was a kaleidoscope of color and frantic activity leading up to the actual race, with low-flying jets from the Patriots Jet Demonstration Team flying breathtaking maneuvers just above the track - one jet seemed almost set to collide with a Toyota Tundra pickup truck suspended high over the track from a giant crane.
NASCAR racing legends Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Ned Jarrett did a trackside Q&E broadcast on a barn door-sized video screen, and a giant red SaveMart shopping cart powered by 454 cubic-inch Chevy engine putting out 520 horsepower and capable of hitting 60 mph in 8 seconds, entertained the crowd.
There was plenty of drama on the track itself, with pole sitter Joey Logano - who turned 21 a month ago and was still in diapers when Jeff Gordon was crossing finish lines in first place - leading the race briefly and a series of Turn 10 crashes that derailed popular favorites like Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
The 110 lap, 219 mile race had a purse of $5.5 million, with $293,000 going to Busch, $234,000 for Gordon and $72,724 going to P.J. Jones who finished last after completing just five laps with a broken suspension.
There were 12 lead changes in the race with nine drivers trading off the first spot, 17 laps were run under the yellow flag, meaning drivers can't change position, and the average speed for the almost three-hour race was 75.411 mph.
Media people were served tender chicken strips, pork ribs, fresh garden vegetables and chocolate chip cookies with brownies to boot in the media center.
And out in the midway-like parking lot race fans could buy every conceivable NASCAR souvenir and beer for $9 a glass.
It was all a uniquely wondrous American spectacle, it only happens at Infineon once a year, and that is probably a good thing.