IRL: Sears Point: Chip Ganassi Racing preview

Coming Up this Weekend-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns to Infineon Raceway with their Honda powered Panoz chassis to take on the 2.26 mile permanent road course in Sonoma, CA for an 80 lap (180.8 mile) contest. This will be the 13th of 14...

Coming Up this Weekend-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns to Infineon Raceway with their Honda powered Panoz chassis to take on the 2.26 mile permanent road course in Sonoma, CA for an 80 lap (180.8 mile) contest. This will be the 13th of 14 races on the 2006 IndyCar schedule.

The Final Stretch-- Only two remaining races in the 2006 season with the road course at Infineon in California and the finale at the Chicagoland oval, and it will be a battle to the finish. With a win in the last race at Kentucky, Sam Hornish regained the points lead with 418 points, seven points ahead of Helio Castroneves (411 points). Target's Dan Wheldon (394 points) remained in third spot and is within 24 points of the leader. Target teammate Scott Dixon (385 points) is still in the hunt with his second place finish at Kentucky and is still within striking distance with a deficit of 33 points from the top spot in the Championship standings.

Scott Dixon Notes & Quotes--

A seventh place at Infineon in 2005 was the lowest he has finished on a road course in IndyCar.

"I think for us this is probably a good spot where we can close up on Sam, who's been struggling a little on these road courses. I think we have to go into these last two races, and basically try to win at any cost, I think, to close that gap. Thirty-three points for me is quite big. Twenty-four for Dan is also big. It could be a good day for us to make a big gain on points. We've had a lot of luck on road courses with a second place finish in St.Pete and the two wins and Watkins Glen but it's always tough here, it's difficult to pass. Hopefully we'll qualify up front. Strategy-wise that will make it easier for us. It could be a good day for us to make a big gain on points."

Dan Wheldon Notes & Quotes--

At Infineon last year, Wheldon qualified 7th but did not finish due to mechanical problem. Was credited with an 18th place finish.

"I think we've had a little bit of bad luck at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and to think that we're still this close to possibly leading the points and having a viable chance of winning the championship, I think that's definitely going to keep us motivated to be able to do that. I think to some degree the pressure's off both of us because we are third and fourth in the points. We just have to attack every weekend. If we do just do what we normally do and run up front and lead laps, we can hopefully close the gap and maybe even come out on top. This is definitely a race we can close that gap. I think this is going to be the race that's going to mix it up. I can see some strange things happening with strategy and stuff like that. You might have the fastest car in the race here, but I've got the feeling that this race is going to be very influential in turning things around and doing things people don't expect. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. If it's not, I can say I think I've driven probably the best I've ever driven. I think better than last year. I've led a lot of laps. It just hasn't gone for me and sometimes you have years like that."

Taking Orders from Fans-- A week prior to their scheduled appointment with the road course at Sonoma, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon took time out to do some advance promotion of the race and take ticket orders last Thursday at Infineon Raceway.

Race fans got the rare opportunity to chat with Dixon and Wheldon, and at the same time, purchase tickets for the upcoming Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend, Aug. 25-27, in the Sonoma Valley. The banter began with the first phone call, and Target teammates entertained people placing phone ticket orders for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma for the next 30 minutes.

"Danica Patrick's love line," the reigning IndyCar Series champion startled the first phone caller to the Infineon Raceway ticket office.

"You're not bringing your boyfriend, are you?" Wheldon joked with another caller, according to the Napa Valley Register. "Oh, your brother? That's allowed. Now for security purposes only, you're over 18, right? 21? OK, even better."

Wheldon then asked the caller her favorite driver. "If you say Hornish, I'm hanging up!"

The caller acknowledged a crush on Helio Castroneves, Hornish's Marlboro Team Penske teammate.

"You're making me sick," Wheldon replied. "You can't see through his act?"

Another caller was seeking seats in Turn 9.

"They'll be great seats -- guaranteed," Wheldon told the caller. "You can wave to me."

Jim Chen and his 12-year-old son Brandon drove from San Francisco to buy tickets. They were rewarded with autographs from both drivers, including Wheldon's signature on the program from the 89th Indianapolis 500 that the British driver won.

"He's a really nice guy," Chen said, "and really, really funny. It was just great."

Said Dixon after accepting the final phone call: "Now I know what we'd do if we weren't drivers."

Check the Rear View Mirrors-- In 2005 at Infineon Raceway, the Target team was very strong having won the pole position with rookie Ryan Briscoe. Scott Dixon qualified ninth and finished seventh due to an alternative fuel strategy. Dan Wheldon, did not finish the race last year with his previous team due to a fuel pick up problem.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Danica Patrick , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing