SONOMA — Kurt Busch. Martin Truex Jr. Elliott Sadler. Greg Biffle. No, it isn't a condensed Who's Who of NASCAR. It's the list of drivers who accused Jeff Gordon of wrecking them during last year's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
This year, the beloved and berated Vallejo native was a perfect gentleman.
"There were times today where we didn't have the car and I gave up the spots," explained Gordon, who finished second behind Busch on Sunday. "I wasn't going to try to push the issue. I guess that's good and bad. ... I certainly didn't want to make as many enemies as I did last year, because I made a lot of 'em coming out of here."
Gordon never apologized to Busch after last year's incident, and iterated Sunday that he didn't feel the need to do so. But he was the only driver who ventured into Victory Lane to personally congratulate Busch after his victory. Gordon insisted it had nothing to do with 2010.
"The guy did a great job. He drove a great race," he said. "They've been running well. To me, what happened here last year, what happened at Martinsville (when Busch retaliated last October), is behind us. I've moved on from that. I think we're pretty even."
After the race, everyone was talking about the budding feud involving Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers. You might want to keep your eye on Brad Keselowski vs. Juan Pablo Montoya as well.
Keselowski took out the hard-driving Colombian late in the race, then said afterward: "I don't take pride in all that stuff, but at some point you have to run your own deal. It was pretty obvious that it was eat or be eaten, and I wasn't going to be eaten."
"He just plain and simple wrecked us," Montoya said. "It's hard when people don't know how to race on road courses and think they do."
Asked whether he planned to speak to Keselowski, Montoya replied: "No, you have to talk to smart people."
Keselowski finished 10th, Montoya 22nd.
Save Mart Supermarkets has been title sponsor or co-sponsor of this race since 1992 — when pole-sitter Joey Logano was a year old. The relationship is not ready to end. Infineon officials announced Sunday that the raceway and the Modesto-based supermarket chain have signed a new five-year agreement that runs the sponsorship through 2016.
Save Mart was the NASCAR Cup title sponsor here from 1992 to 1997, and has partnered with co-sponsors since 1998. Toyota has co-sponsored the race for five years.
BEATS THE HELL OUT OF TALLADEGA
After our extended soggy spring and one brief burst of 100-degree heat, the weather settled into the spectacular Sunday: 74 degrees at the green flag, warm sun, mild breeze, nothing but sunshine in the hills of Carneros.
"I always say, I never realized how good the weather was when I lived here," North Bay native Gordon told the few-hundred people who came to hear him talk near Turn 11 at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. "I took it for granted, I guess. I always remember the foggy mornings in Vallejo, but I forgot about the lack of clouds, which I saw a lot of in Indiana, when I lived in Indiana, and North Carolina, where I am now."