Sears Point: Rahal Letterman Racing preview

HILLIARD, Ohio - Here we stand or here we fall/History won't care at all - Queen Three consecutive top-10 finishes have earned Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...

HILLIARD, Ohio - Here we stand or here we fall/History won't care at all - Queen

Three consecutive top-10 finishes have earned Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) a solid shot at finishing the 2008 IndyCar Series season in the top 10 in point standings, but the next three weeks will determine whether the Ohio-based squad celebrates at the end of the year, or laments what could have been.

Hunter-Reay and the #17 Ethanol car are mired in a three-way tie for eighth in the series standings, knotted with Hideki Mutoh and Oriol Servia at 298 points with just three points-paying races remaining. This weekend's PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County kicks off the season-ending string of three races in three weeks, with the newly-reconfigured 2.245-mile Infineon Raceway providing the first test of the season's homestretch. The trio is just 13 points out of seventh place, four more out of sixth, but on the backside is just 16 markers away from needing a third hand to count its position. RLR has finished the year in the top 10 in each of its five seasons since joining the IndyCar Series in 2003 and isn't looking to end that streak any time soon.

"This is the final stretch of the season and the points battle is extremely close, we're focused on picking up another win or podium before the season's out," said Hunter-Reay. "Last season we really picked up the pace at this track as we barely missed the Firestone Fast Six, but we were unlucky and didn't get to run but just five laps in the race. "This is another very tricky, challenging and extremely physical race track in some ways like Watkins Glen where we picked up a win. To add to it, Northern California wine country isn't a bad place to hold a race either!"

Hunter-Reay had a strong weekend at Infineon last season in his first IndyCar visit there - at least until Sunday. He qualified seventh but suffered a cut brake line after battling wheel-to-wheel with Marco Andretti on the opening lap, forcing him to retire after just five laps.

The 12-turn road course nestled in California's Wine Country has undergone a couple of changes from last year and now incorporates the drag strip coming out of Turn Six in a move designed to provide a harder braking zone heading into Turn Seven - and thus yielding a better passing opportunity. Hunter-Reay was one of the first IndyCar drivers to test the new layout and was impressed with the change.

"I have really been looking forward to going back to Sonoma. Eliminating the bend to the left and now going up the drag strip makes for a wider passing opportunity, and I think that's good," Hunter-Reay reports. "Any passing opportunity is great for the series and good for the fans who come out and watch."

The Infineon weekend gets underway with two-and-a-half hours of practice on Friday, with another 30 minutes of practice on Saturday leading into Firestone Fast Six qualifying that afternoon. The 80-lap race will get underway beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time and can be seen on ESPN.

-credit: rlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay , Hideki Mutoh