IRL: Behind The Barriers: Sonoma

It has been thirty-five years since a major league open-wheel series has competed at Infineon Raceway. On April 4, 1970 Dan Gurney won the USAC IndyCar 150, also known as the Golden State 150, driving a car of his own design, a Ford-powered ...

It has been thirty-five years since a major league open-wheel series has competed at Infineon Raceway. On April 4, 1970 Dan Gurney won the USAC IndyCar 150, also known as the Golden State 150, driving a car of his own design, a Ford-powered Eagle-Gurney. It was Gurney's seventh and final victory in the IndyCar Series. The track, known as Sears Point Raceway at the time, was a 12-turn, 2.52-mile circuit. The current configuration of the circuit has been reduced to 2.26 miles, yet still comprises 12 turns.

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Giorgio Pantano prepared to make his Indy Racing League IndyCar Series debut by turning 70 laps at Infineon Raceway last week. "I like this track a lot," Pantano said. "It's a track where the driver can make a big difference. Right now I'm just trying to learn the car and what I can do with it. Pantano will compete in the final two road course events this season at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen driving the No. 10 Target Toyota Panoz for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

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The assets of Mo Nunn Racing are being liquidated via two auctions September 7 and 8. Memorabilia including driver's suits, helmets and car parts go on the block September 7 at 6:00 p.m. The auction for transporters, race cars and shop equipment is September 8 at 10:00 a.m. The auction will be held at the Mo Nunn Racing shop near the Indianapolis airport. Visit www.monunnauction.com for details.

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Tom Sneva inducted into Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich. Sneva, who won the 1983 Indianapolis 500, was among the nine inductees into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America at a August 18 ceremony at the State Theater in Detroit. Sneva currently serves as spotter and driver coach for Bombardier Rookie of the Year candidate Tomas Enge of Panther Racing.

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Firestone delivered 826 dry-condition and 368 wet-condition Firehawk race tires for use at the Indy Racing League's first race on a permanent race course. All were produced at the Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio. Each car will be provided with eight sets of slicks and four sets of rain tires. Cars competing in the final "Firestone Fast Six" qualifying session will be given an extra set of tires for that session.

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Scott Mansell will contest the final two road circuits on the Menards Infiniti Pro Series schedule driving the Dave McMillan Racing No. 22. McMillan leads the Andretti Green Racing Pro Series team which will field Marco Andretti in those events as well. Mansell earned four victories and seven pole positions on his way to winning the EuroBoss championship in 2004. McMillan won several open-wheel championships in New Zealand in the early 1980s, and in 1982 became the first driver from overseas to win a Toyota Atlantic championship.

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Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice hosted the Valley of the Moon Teen Center at Infineon Raceway on Friday. The pair signed autographs and shared some of the highlights of their careers, encouraging the teens to follow their dreams. Argent Mortgage will donate $15 for every lap Buddy and Danica complete during the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix, Aug. 28, to the Valley of the Moon Teen Center, which could potentially total $2,400.

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Wade Cunningham leads the Menards Infiniti Pro Series point standings by 21 points over Travis Gregg. Gregg has scored three victories this season while Cunningham has yet to earn his first win. Cunningham recorded an IRL-record four consecutive second-place finishes earlier this season and holds the series record with 10 consecutive top-five finishes.

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The 2005 Chevrolet Corvette paced the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May. As one of America's great sports cars the Corvette will now be crossing the country for 37 cents. The 1953 Corvette is one of five automobiles featured on a new series of U.S. postage stamps. In addition to the '53 Corvette the brand new 37 cent stamps feature a '54 Kaiser Darrin, '52 Nash-Healey, '53 Studebaker Starliner, and a '55 Ford Thunderbird. The stamps are available at post offices now.

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Converting an IndyCar Series car from oval to road course configuration takes about 10-12 hours according to Dave "Poppy" Popielarz. Popielarz is the crew chief for Dario Franchitti's car at Andretti Green Racing. The ArcaEx team left Indianapolis bound for Pikes Peak with two cars, one set for the one-mile oval at Pikes Peak and one setup for the road course at Infineon Raceway. "We're going with our backup car already in road-course configuration," Popielarz said. "If we have any incident at Kentucky or Pikes Peak, our road course cars are already converted." While the cars may look the same to the untrained eye, "they're different. The transmission takes a lot of work, put a differential into it, drop gears, suspension is different, brake ducts, calipers and rotors are different, the radiator ducting is different, the pedal arrangement, and the head rest."

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Traveling directly from Colorado to California provided an opportunity for team members to spend some time away from the race track. But the lure of speed was too great for seven members of Andretti Green Racing. AGR team manager Kyle Moyer and six team members spent time at the Jimmy Sills sprint car school at the Twin Cities Speedway in Marysville, Calif earlier in the week. "We each got 35-40m laps," said Dave Popielarz, chief mechanic on the Arca/Ex car. "After the first 10 laps, we said it was worth the money right there."

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The American entry in the A1 Grand Prix Series was unveiled recently in France. Three drivers, Scott Speed, Colin Fleming and Matt Jaskol, are scheduled to test the car with IndyCar Series driver Scott Sharp providing guidance. "I'm excited to be a part of the A1 Team USA," Sharp said. "There are a number of very talented teams and drivers, from all over the world involved in the A1 Grand Prix and A1 Team USA is going to have to work very hard to fulfill our expectations. I'm happy to be able to assist the team as we get ready to compete in September!" A1 Team USA owner Rick Weidinger worked with Sharp at Kelley Racing.

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Construction on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago could cause problems for attendees at the IRL event at Chicagoland Speedway on September 11. The highway is in the midst of a $600 million reconstruction project. For updated information on the construction schedule and partial closings check www.danryanexpressway.com or call 1-877-411-IDOT.

Indy Racing League Team and Sponsor Business News

XM Satellite Radio, sponsor of Bryan Herta's Honda-powered Dallara, announced Wednesday that Suzuki, one of Japan's fastest growing automakers, will offer XM Radio for the first time this fall. For the 2006 model year, two models will arrive XM-Ready at U.S. dealerships beginning in mid-September.

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Delphi Corp., sponsor of Scott Sharp's Honda-powered Panoz, has won new business to supply condenser coils to YORK International Corp. for use in the North American residential air conditioning market. YORK is an independent supplier of heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) equipment. This new residential air conditioning business illustrates Delphi's continued success in transferring its traditionally automotive expertise into non-automotive markets. Production is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2006.

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Series INDYCAR