IRL: Infineon Raceway kicks off 2007 race season

Raceway Ushers in New Season with 2007 Media Kickoff Day SONOMA, Calif. (Feb. 26, 2007) -- Infineon Raceway officially ushered in the 2007 Big O Tires Racing Season on Monday under rainy skies in the Sonoma Valley with its 2nd annual Northern ...

Raceway Ushers in New Season with 2007 Media Kickoff Day

SONOMA, Calif. (Feb. 26, 2007) -- Infineon Raceway officially ushered in the 2007 Big O Tires Racing Season on Monday under rainy skies in the Sonoma Valley with its 2nd annual Northern California Media Kickoff Day.

The event, which was attended by more than 25 Northern California media outlets, was highlighted by drivers AJ Allmendinger (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series); Marco Andretti (IndyCar® Series); Scott Pruett (Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series); and Angelle Sampey (NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series).

The racers visited with the media and chatted about the upcoming season at Infineon Raceway, which will feature seven major-event weekends, including the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (NASCAR, June 22-24); FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals (July 27-29); and the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma (IndyCar Series, Aug. 24-26).

"This has got to be one of my favorite places to race, if not the favorite," said Andretti, who not only recorded his first-ever IndyCar Series win at Sonoma in 2006, but also became the youngest driver (19) to ever win a major open-wheel race. "It's a pretty challenging track and I like that. I came up on road courses and this takes me right back there, plus the facility is incredible with all of the improvements. This is one of the favorite stops for everyone on the series."

"This is obviously the biggest race I'm looking forward to," said Allmendinger, a Los Gatos native who drives the No. 83 Red Bull Camry and is best known for his road-racing days in Champ Car. "It's a road course and I'm looking forward to getting back to my roots, plus living close to here and growing up here, my friends and family will be out here."

Steve Page, president and general manager at Infineon Raceway, also announced that Bob Piccinini, CEO and chairman of Save Mart Supermarkets, which has been associated with the raceway since 1992, will be inducted into the raceway's Wall of Fame. The official ceremony will take place during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 weekend.

In other raceway news regarding the 2007 season:

* Infineon Raceway will serve as one of 13 tracks that will race NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow.

* The raceway will celebrate its 20th anniversary of NHRA POWERade Drag Racing with the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals, July 27-29.

* In addition to Piccinini, four other people will be inducted into the raceway's Wall of Fame. The names will be announced during the upcoming season.

* The IndyCar Series will switch to 100-percent fuel-grade ethanol for the 2007 race season. Ethanol will be used at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, Aug. 24-26.

* The Sonoma Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities will host 10 fund-raisers this season, headlined by the 2007 Grand Marshal's Banquet at NASCAR weekend. The Sonoma Chapter has generated more than $2.1 million for qualified youth groups in Sonoma County since 2002.

Sampey, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion and the winningest female in NHRA history (40 victories), can't wait to get back to Sonoma in July.

"We usually get very close to setting records if we don't actually set them here in Sonoma," said Sampey, who rides the U.S. Army Suzuki. "The fans are the best at this racetrack. For some reason, the fans here love the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, so we really look forward to coming to this track."

The press conference was just one element of the day, which also boasted a blood drive for the American Red Cross, a motor sports car corral, and hot laps around the twisting 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course at speed.

For ticket information to any event during the 2007 season, please call 800-870-RACE or visit www.infineonraceway.com.

-credit: irsp

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Series GRANDAM , INDYCAR , NASCAR-CUP , NHRA