Sears Point: Notes of Interest

** INFINEON RACEWAY GEARS UP FOR ALMS EVENT -- Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (formerly Sears Point Raceway) is gearing up for this weekend's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. The main event will be ...

** INFINEON RACEWAY GEARS UP FOR ALMS EVENT -- Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. (formerly Sears Point Raceway) is gearing up for this weekend's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma. The main event will be Sunday's two-hour, 45-minute timed race for the professional sports car racing teams of the ALMS.

Teams began arriving on Wednesday and will have two hours of testing time on Friday. Saturday's schedule includes official practice sessions, qualifying and an "Open House" paddock autograph session featuring all drivers entered in the ALMS race.

Sunday's race starts at 12 noon (PDT) and will be televised live by NBC Sports starting at 4 p.m. (EDT). The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage of qualifying and the race that can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.

** HERBERT WINS GRAPE STOMP CONTEST -- Johnny Herbert's winning ways continued Wednesday as he beat ADT Champion Audi teammate JJ Lehto and JMB Racing USA Ferrari driver Eliseo Salazar in an old-style grape stomp competition at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa in Napa, Calif. The event was part of a press conference for the race weekend.

With Infineon Raceway located in California's famous wine country, it was fitting to have the three drivers standing in wooden barrels of grapes, stomping as fast and hard as they could for three minutes to see who could produce the most liquid. Each driver had a "swabbie," a teammate who held a gallon jug under a spigot from the barrel and raked the juice into the spigot as the barefoot drivers stomped.

Herbert's efforts filled his jug nearly half-full (an expert stomper can fill a gallon in under three minutes). Lehto finished second, barely beating the effort of Salazar.

"That's hard work!" said Herbert, who was sweating and breathing hard after finishing. "But I'm glad that my strategy worked. I didn't want to lose to my teammate."

** HERBERT AND LEHTO MEET BASEBALL -- ADT Champion Racing teammates Johnny Herbert (England) and JJ Lehto (Finland) were introduced to American professional baseball this week prior to the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Herbert, accompanied by his two daughters, attended Saturday's San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies game at San Francisco's Pacific Bell Park. "It was great fun," he said. "My daughters really enjoyed it and were quite disappointed when it was time to leave."

The former Formula One driver had only seen one baseball game before, that coming in 1995 during his F1 career when he visited Japan. "I got straight off a plane and was taken to the Tokyo Dome to watch a game," he said. "By the second inning, I was asleep. They threw a lot of pitches, but no one was hitting.

"The Giants game was much, much better," he said. "People were hitting the ball this time, and then old Barry (Bonds) cracked one out of there, and everyone loved it."

Lehto attended a game Tuesday night in Sacramento featuring the Sacramento River Cats, one of the most successful minor league baseball franchises in the country. Lehto and fellow ALMS drivers Gunnar Jeannette, Jeff Bucknum, Kevin Buckler and Eliseo Salazar met fans and signed autographs before the game, and Lehto threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Finn has never played baseball, but fired a strike from the pitcher's mound. "I threw a lot of snowballs growing up in Finland," he said.

** HINDERY HAS HECTIC TRAVEL SCHEDULE -- When he drives the Orbit Racing Porsche in this weekend's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma, American Le Mans Series driver Leo Hindery will have logged many travel miles before the race even starts.

Hindery, the CEO of the YES Network in New York, spent this past weekend in South Africa, where he attended a birthday celebration for Nelson Mandela. While there, he called to California to do a live interview on a San Francisco motorsports radio program to talk about the Infineon Raceway event.

Racing at Infineon Raceway represents a homecoming for Hindery, who was a resident of the Bay Area from 1969 to 1981 and 1985 to 2001. He was chief financial officer of The Chronicle Publishing Co. in San Francisco from 1985 to 1987.

On track, Hindery and Orbit Racing scored a second-place GT finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month. Hindery commemorated the event with a special Le Mans tattoo -- and took a YES crew to record the process.

** HERBERT, DAUGHTER TOGETHER FOR FIRST TIME -- American Le Mans Series driver Johnny Herbert's youngest daughter, Aimelia, got a special gift for her 11th birthday this past Monday: her father's presence.

Because she was born during the busiest time of the racing season, Aimelia had never been with her father on a single birthday in her life until Monday. This time, Herbert, wife Becky and oldest daughter Chloe were all together in a San Francisco hotel as part of a "working vacation" for the driver for ADT Champion Racing.

Herbert came to California a week prior to the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma, bringing along his family to make a vacation out of it while also doing some advance PR work.

"It was pretty sad that I had always been away on her birthday, so this one was special," said the English driver. "It's never been a problem with the other one because her birthday is in January."

On a day off from PR work Tuesday, Herbert and family visited the famous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. His wife, a former British Airways flight attendant, had toured the facility 13 years previously. "I usually never have time for this sort of thing, and it has been enjoyable," he said.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Eliseo Salazar , Kevin Buckler , Leo Hindery , Jeff Bucknum , JJ Lehto