Sonoma: Newman/Haas Racing preview

HOPING TO BE SIXTH DIFFERENT WINNER IN THIRD RACE AT INFINEON RACEWAY It will be the sixth IZOD IndyCar Series event at Infineon Raceway and five different drivers have won the five events held here to date. NHR first competed here in 2008 and...

HOPING TO BE SIXTH DIFFERENT WINNER IN THIRD RACE AT INFINEON RACEWAY

It will be the sixth IZOD IndyCar Series event at Infineon Raceway and five different drivers have won the five events held here to date. NHR first competed here in 2008 and would like to keep that string alive with a win by either Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 02 Quick Trim race car or Hideki Mutoh, driver of the No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic entry. The previous winners include: Tony Kanaan ('05), Marco Andretti ('06), Scott Dixon ('07), Helio Castroneves ('08) and Dario Franchitti ('09). NHR competed here in 2008 with Justin Wilson and Rahal, and in 2009 with Rahal and Oriol Servia. The team's highest start is sixth by Rahal and their highest finish is sixth by Oriol Servia -- both in 2009. Servia was hindered by a broken fuel pump in the only pre-qualifying practice at Sonoma in 2009 which led to a 17th place start but he stretched his fuel longer than many and finished sixth after an exciting late race duel with Justin Wilson, whom he held off despite the Brit being on the faster red "alternate" Firestone's while he was on the standard tire.

HIDEKI'S BEST ROAD COURSE RESULTS HAVE COME AT SONOMA

The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Hideki's third IZOD IndyCar Series event here. He earned his highest series start and finish on a road/street course of fifth place here last year. Late-race brake issues hindered his bid for a podium finish of third place. "Last year the car felt very good from the get-go and I qualified fifth,' recalled Mutoh. "Being the highest qualified car at Andretti Green Racing gave me confidence for sure. It was near the end of the season but the team started listening to me on the setups more. The race was tough though. I had a brake problem for the last 10 or 15 laps and the car didn't stop well in the corners and two guys passed me which was very disappointing because we could have finished on the podium. It was rewarding though to get my best finish on a road course, especially since I knew we could be even better than fifth. I was racing with Helio (Castroneves) the whole race and learned a lot and gained more confidence so that was good."

HIDEKI ON THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING WELL IN SONOMA

"I spun during qualifying in my first year here so I didn't get a good lap time in qualifying," said Mutoh of his 20th place starting position and 13th place finish with Andretti Green Racing. "It made the race harder since it's difficult to overtake at the track. There weren't many yellows so we couldn't go on a different pit strategy. Qualifying is everything at Sonoma."

HIDEKI'S MOTHER AND SISTER TO ATTEND FIRST NON-INDY 500 RACE IN US

Hideki's mother, Noriko, and oldest of two sisters, Yumi, are flying from Tokyo to San Francisco to attend their first Indy car race in the U.S. other than the Indy 500 this weekend. Both attended the 2008 and 2009 Indy 500 races. "My mother and sister are coming to Sonoma for the race," said Mutoh, 27. "They come to the race in Motegi of course but this is the first race in the United States they have come to other than the Indy 500. I am staying in San Francisco until Wednesday after the race and we are going to Alcatraz for sure and doing some other sightseeing." Hideki's father Eiji has yet to see him race an Indy car in person and will do so for the first time this year at the Indy Japan at Twin Ring Motegi as the race falls on a national holiday. His responsibilities at the family's Hotetora shop in the famous Tsukiji fish market have kept him from seeing his only son race an Indy car in person. The market has been in the family for approx. 110 years.

HIDEKI BELIEVES INFINEON RACEWAY IS SIMILAR TO JAPANESE RACE TRACKS

"The track is more like a Japanese race track," said Mutoh, who began racing in Japan before moving to England and then the United States. "It's not bumpy like other U.S. race tracks. There are a lot of elevations changes. At the exit of the hairpin it is very low grip so you need to have good control of the throttle. And the area never grips up during the weekend which adds another challenge. Coming up with a setup that suits the low speed and high speed areas is quite difficult. My favorite part of the course is Turn 1 and the quick first corner. The elevation changes and the esses are the most fun."

GRAHAM ON HIS PAST RESULTS AT INFINEON RACEWAY

This year's event will be Rahal's third consecutive Indy car race here. Last year he made the final Firestone Fast Six in qualifying at Sonoma for a total of six times in the seven road/street races in 2009 and started sixth. Contact on the opening lap with Marco Andretti forced an early stop for a new front wing but his drive shaft broke when he attempted to leave the pits. After the car was repaired in the garage area, he returned to the track many laps down in 21st position and ultimately retired in the same place after completing 30 of the 75 laps. He started 15th and finished 8th here in 2008. "Last year at Infineon was a real bummer," said Rahal. "We felt we had good pace, but it just didn't work out with the driveshaft breaking on us, and my contact with Marco. I have very high expectations for the race this year as always. I feel like we were competitive there last season, and I hope that we can do even better this year. We certainly will have our challenges, but it's a big event for Quick Trim, and I hope that we can make them more than happy."

THE FASTER THE TRACK, THE BETTER FOR GRAHAM

"The track has a very good combination of very high speed and slow speed corners," said Rahal. "Some of the corners are extremely tight to be honest. I feel like it does suit my driving style, although I have certainly not had great success or luck here in the past. I hope we can turn it around this weekend. I like the high speed corners like Turns 2 and 3, I believe. I think that the higher the speed, the more fun and risky so I enjoy those areas. Again the slower speed stuff doesn't excite me all that much, but it's the same for everyone."

GRAHAM ON THE CURRENT LEVEL OF COMPETITION

"As we found out at Mid-Ohio, the series is more competitive now than ever before," said Rahal. "This puts a huge emphasis on the tenths-of-a-second, and we cannot afford to play catch up on a short weekend and schedule like this. It will be crucial that we show up and are competitive right out of the box."

HIDEKI & GRAHAM ON SONOMA BEING THE FINAL ROAD RACE OF THE YEAR

The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma marks the fifth consecutive road/street race and final one for 2010. The remaining four races of the 2010 season will take place on 1.5-mile ovals in Joliet, Ill, Sparta, Kentucky, Motegi, Japan and Homestead, Fla. Rahal, who did not compete in the event at Kansas Speedway and started from pole there in 2009, is looking forward to getting back on this type of track. "I am looking forward to the ovals," said Rahal. "I haven't done a 1.5 mile oval this year yet, but I do enjoy them. I love road racing, but certainly I am looking forward to mixing it up on the high speed ovals as well."

Mutoh's highest start of the season of fourth place came at the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas Speedway but progress he and the team have made on road courses has him wishing for more. "I wish we could have more road races this season because I think we are getting better and better," said Mutoh.

-source: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Marco Andretti , Hideki Mutoh