IRL: Sears Point: Round 13 pre-race notes, schedule

Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma FAST FACTS WHAT: IndyCar® Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, 13th race in 14-race 2006 season WHERE: Infineon Raceway, 12-turn, 2.26-mile permanent road course WHEN: IndyCar Series: 3:30 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Aug.

Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
FAST FACTS

WHAT:
IndyCar® Series: Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, 13th race in 14-race 2006 season

WHERE:
Infineon Raceway, 12-turn, 2.26-mile permanent road course

WHEN:
IndyCar Series: 3:30 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Aug. 27

DISTANCE:
IndyCar Series: 80 laps/180.8 miles

POSTED AWARDS:
IndyCar Series: More than $1 million

CARS:
IndyCar Series: Dallara and Panoz chassis; Honda Indy V-8; Firestone tires

PREVIOUS RACE WINNERS:
IndyCar Series: Tony Kanaan (2005)

2005 SERIES CHAMPIONS:
IndyCar Series: Dan Wheldon

TV:
IndyCar Series: Race: ESPN (live), 3:30 p.m. (EDT), Aug. 27

Live streaming video of all practice sessions, Marlboro Pole Qualifying (3:05 p.m. EDT, Aug. 27) and the in-car footage of the race also will be available at www.indycar.com.

RADIO:
IndyCar Series: Qualifying: IMS Radio Network, live web-cast, 2:45 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 26

Qualifying wrapup: IMS Radio Network, 5:30 p.m. (EDT), Aug. 26

Pre-race: IMS Radio Network (live), 3 p.m. (EDT), Aug. 27

Race: IMS Radio Network (live), 3:45 p.m. (EDT), Aug. 27

Live coverage of Marlboro Pole Qualifying (2:45 p.m. EDT, Aug.26) and the race also will be available at www.indycar.com. The race broadcast is also available on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing."

SCHEDULE (all times local; subject to change):

Friday, Aug. 25
10 a.m. -- Noon IndyCar Series practice (all cars)
2:15 -- 3:20 p.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)

Saturday, Aug. 26
9:30 -- 10:35 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)
12:05 p.m. IndyCar Series Marlboro Pole Qualifying, including Firestone Fast Six session (75 minutes total)
6:20 -- 6:50 p.m. IndyCar Series final practice

Sunday, Aug. 27
12:30 p.m. Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma (80 laps/180.8 miles) ESPN & IMS Radio Network (live)

THE TRACK:
2.26-mile road course; 40 feet wide
    Infineon Raceway is located 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and serves as the gateway to the beautiful Sonoma Wine Country. The track is owned and operated by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., and hosts several nationally televised events, including NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing, the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Superbike tour, and the IRL IndyCar Series.

INDY-STYLE RACING IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: Since opening in 1968, Infineon Raceway, formerly known as Sears Point Raceway, has been the home to motorsports action for much of Northern California, The track first hosted Indy-style racing with two USAC Indy Car races in 1969 and 1970. Dan Gurney took the checkered flag in the USAC IndyCar 150 over drivers such as Mario Andretti, Mark Donahue and Al Unser. But the track closed shortly after that race, and open-wheel cars were replaced by sports cars and later NASCAR stock cars. On Aug. 3, 2004, the Indy Racing League announced that the IRL IndyCar® Series would race on an IndyCar Series-modified 12-turn, 2.26-mile course at Infineon Raceway. The first Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma was won by Tony Kanaan on Aug. 28, 2005.

INDYCAR SERIES NOTES:

*Four Indianapolis 500 champions are expected to participate in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2006).

*Five IndyCar Series champions are scheduled to participate in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma: Scott Sharp (1996 co-champion), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001, 2002), Scott Dixon (2003), Tony Kanaan (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005).

*Drivers entered in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma have plenty of talent and experience. The 18 drivers entered in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma have combined for 70 IndyCar Series victories, 68 pole positions and 949 starts.

*The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the last of three events in 2006 contested on street or road courses: Helio Castroneves (St. Petersburg) and Scott Dixon (Watkins Glen International) won the previous events.

* The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 133rd IndyCar Series event since the series' inaugural race in 1996. In the 132 previous events, 26,400 laps of competition have been completed.

* In 12 races thus far in 2006, there have been five winners. Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves are multiple winners. Hornish won at Indianapolis, Richmond, Kansas and Kentucky, Castroneves won at St. Petersburg, Motegi, Texas and Michigan and Dixon won at Watkins Glen and Nashville. Dan Wheldon won at Homestead-Miami and Tony Kanaan won at Milwaukee. In those 12 races, 16 drivers have finished in the top five in at least one event.

INDYCAR SERIES PRE-RACE QUOTES:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, point leader): "Infineon is one of the most fun tracks we run on all year because of the elevation changes and different types of corners. The circuit also demands the most of the drivers physically, so it's a big challenge. We were quick in qualifying last year, so hopefully this season we'll be able to match that effort with a quality race result as well. Obviously, I want to win this race very badly, but I need to take a more realistic approach to it. We just need to bring the Marlboro Team Penske car home in the top five so we're set up well for a run at the championship in Chicago."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second place, 7 points behind): "Infineon Raceway is like a roller coaster, and it's a lot of fun to race there. The circuit is very challenging, not only for the drivers, but also for our engineers. I'm looking forward to going back to Sonoma this weekend, as we feel we have some unfinished business there. Last year, we had a very fast race car, but unfortunately we were taken out early. Needless to say, we hope our luck changes this year and we can duplicate our earlier street course win in St. Petersburg. (About the championship race): "Right now, we're really enjoying the championship battle, and it's great to have five cars in the hunt. Marlboro Team Penske has been incredible all season, and I'll definitely be looking to retake the lead in Sonoma heading into the last race at Chicago. Nothing would make this season more special than to earn my first-ever national championship."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third place, 24 points behind): "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 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 even I've been 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."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth place, 33 points behind): "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 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 at 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."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Lincoln Tech Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth place, 70 points behind): "We'll approach this race the same way we approached Watkins Glen and every other race this season. We've been good on road courses, and there is no reason to think we won't be this weekend. We certainly have the championship in mind. But this is a make or break weekend for us. We either catch them now, or we're out of the championship. We've been underdogs all season, and that makes it fun for us."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth place, 79 points behind): "It's hard to describe how excited I am to be going back to Infineon Raceway. It's special to be able to race on a natural-terrain road course, let alone one that we won at a year ago. We've ran well on the road courses this year, and this is a good opportunity for Team 7-Eleven to get back into victory lane."

MILESTONES:

* Sam Hornish Jr. earned his 17th IndyCar Series victory at Kentucky, extending his IndyCar Series record for all-time victories.

* Marlboro Team Penske broke its tie with Andretti Green Racing for most victories by a team when Sam Hornish Jr. won at Kentucky. The team has 23 wins in the IndyCar Series

* Helio Castroneves extended his record for most poles in a career when he won the pole at Kentucky Speedway. Castroneves has 16 career pole positions.

* Sam Hornish Jr. started on the front row for the fifth-straight event at Kentucky.

* Sam Hornish Jr. became the first IndyCar Series driver to surpass $11 million in career earnings with his victory at Indianapolis earlier this season. He needs $55,445 in earnings to surpass $12 million in his IndyCar Series career.

* Scott Sharp needs one win to earn his 10th IndyCar Series victory and to tie Dan Wheldon for third place on the IndyCar Series all-time wins list. Sharp will attempt to extend his series record for consecutive starts to 118 straight races.

* Dario Franchitti will attempt to make his 50th IndyCar Series start at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

* Marco Andretti would be the youngest winner of a major open-wheel event should he win at Infineon. Scott Dixon was 20 years, 9 months and 14 days when he won a Champ Car event at Nazareth in 2001. Sam Hornish Jr. (21 years, 259 days) was the youngest winner of an IndyCar Series event when he won at Phoenix in 2001. Andretti will be 19 years, 5 months and 14 days old on race day.

* Vitor Meira has gone 57 starts without a victory in the IndyCar Series, the longest drought of any IndyCar Series driver.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Al Unser , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing