IRL: Sears Point: Toyota preview

SAYING HELLO TO AN OLD FRIEND -- While the IRL IndyCar Series will be making its first trip to Sonoma and the Infineon Raceway, it will be like saying hello to an old friend for Toyota's motorsports program. The last time a Toyota-powered...

SAYING HELLO TO AN OLD FRIEND -- While the IRL IndyCar Series will be making its first trip to Sonoma and the Infineon Raceway, it will be like saying hello to an old friend for Toyota's motorsports program.

The last time a Toyota-powered vehicle campaigned on the northern California road course, Juan Manuel Fangio II was victorious in a Toyota Eagle HF89 for Dan Gurney's All American Racers in 1990. Fangio's victory was one of two collected at the track by Toyota-powered cars in IMSA competition as Willy T. Ribbs triumphed in the manufacturer's last IMSA GTO event run at Sears Point in 1988.JIn addition, Toyota Celica GTO cars driven by Chris Cord and Dennis Aase placed second and third in 1986.

BRISCOE LOOKS TO TEND TO UNFINISHED BUSINESS -- In returning to a road course for the first time since St. Petersburg, IndyCar Series rookie Ryan Briscoe (Target Pioneer Toyota) will attempt to secure his first IndyCar Series win. Briscoe had a victory barely escape his grasp at St. Pete where he led a race-high 43 laps only to be spun while leading on Lap 92 of 100 in an incident with another driver.

While Briscoe may be a newcomer to the oval tracks that dominate the IRL schedule, nobody in the series has logged more miles on road courses over the past few years than the 23-year-old Aussie. He spent the past two seasons testing for the Toyota Formula One team. In the process, Briscoe logged thousands of testing miles. Prior to beginning his testing role, Briscoe won the 2003 Euro F3 championship with eight wins. He also won the 2001 Italian Formula Renault title and was signed to the Toyota Driver Academy that season. Briscoe also won karting Formula A titles in both North America (1998) and Italy (1999). Briscoe is one of four current Toyota-powered drivers to have tested or raced in Formula One along with Giorgio Pantano (Jordan), Scott Dixon (Williams) and Helio Castroneves (Toyota F1).

ON THE ROADS AGAIN -- This weekend's Argent Indy Grand Prix will be the first permanent road course event in IRL history, but certainly not the first for Toyota in open-wheel racing. In fact, the manufacturer won its final road course event in Champ Car racing when Target Chip Ganassi Racing was victorious in Mexico City in 2002. Fourteen cars in this weekend's field will be campaigned by teams that competed in that race.

EXPERIENCED FIELD - Seven of the eight Toyota-powered drivers in this weekend's field came up through the road racing ranks. Only Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter came up without extensive road course experience as he honed his talents on the short tracks in the Midwest. Four Toyota drivers won championships in largely road racing series on the way to the IRL -- Patrick Carpentier (1996) and Alex Barron (1997) both won the Toyota Atlantic Championship, while Scott Dixon (1999) was the Indy Lights champion and Ryan Briscoe earned his title in European F3 (2003).

PANTANO JOINS TCGR -- Former Formula 1 driver turned Giorgio Pantano will make his IndyCar Series debut this weekend for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Pantano competed in 14 F1 races for Jordan Grand Prix a year. He's currently campaigning the GP2 series with the Super Nova team and is coming off a strong second-place finish this past weekend in Turkey. He has previously won in both Formula 3 and Formula 3000 competition. The 26-year-old Pantano also is scheduled to handle the driving chores in the #10 Target Toyota at Watkins Glen next month.

NO HEMELGARN -- The first-year Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing team will skip this weekend's event along with next month's road course event at Watkins Glen.

POINTS CHASE - Three Toyota-powered drivers continue to rank in the top-10 in the IRL IndyCar Series point standings. Sam Hornish Jr. remains in second place, but has extended his second-place advantage to 23 points. Fellow Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves moved up to fifth after registering his seventh top-five finish of the season at Pikes Peak. Red Bull driver Patrick Carpentier continues in 10th-place after placing 10th at PPIR last weekend.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Giorgio Pantano , Helio Castroneves , Patrick Carpentier , Scott Dixon , Alex Barron , Dan Gurney , Juan Manuel Fangio , Ryan Briscoe , Willy T. Ribbs , Chip Ganassi , Chris Cord , Dennis Aase , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter
Teams Williams , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing