Sears Point: AWR race two notes

AWR's Donoso and Pecorari Finish Third and Fourth Sunday at Infineon SONOMA, Calif., July 17 -- Andersen Walko Racing's Pablo Donoso backed up his Star Mazda victory Saturday at Infineon Raceway with a new track record in qualifying Sunday...

AWR's Donoso and Pecorari Finish Third and Fourth Sunday at Infineon

SONOMA, Calif., July 17 -- Andersen Walko Racing's Pablo Donoso backed up his Star Mazda victory Saturday at Infineon Raceway with a new track record in qualifying Sunday morning and a third-place finish in the second half of the doubleheader Sunday afternoon with his Cristal Beer No. 22.

One of his three AWR teammates, Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa., was right behind the Santiago, Chile-based driver when he crossed the finish line Sunday and placed fourth in his SAI Hydraulics entry.

Another teammate, Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio, had what in horse racing is called a rough trip and finished 17th in the No. 12 sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Norwalk Furniture and Renier Construction.

The fourth one, Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill., got off to a terrific start but then he was involved in a violent crash on the first lap with his No. 26, which is sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar.

Donoso led every lap on Saturday and James Hinchcliffe did the same on Sunday enroute to his first series victory. Point leader Raphael Matos finished second Sunday.

Unofficially after Sunday's race Matos still leads the point standings and Pecorari is second, 277 to 241. Hinchcliffe is now third with 234 points and Marco Andretti is fourth with 212. Rahal is now fifth with 206 and Donoso is sixth with 199. Klein is 11th with 154.

Hinchcliffe qualified second to Donoso but he actually started third after he was docked one position for missing the drivers' meeting. That moved Matos up to second for the green but Hinchcliffe got by both of them at the start.

Pecorari started and finished fourth, setting the second-fastest lap of the race in the process. The top five positions never changed after lap one throughout the 25-lap event.

Part of that was because the top cars were so evenly matched. Another reason was that a fifth of the race was run under a full-course caution when Klein and Phil Saville crashed on lap one in the Carousel. Klein reportedly got off on the grass, got back onto the track, and then made contact with Saville, who couldn't avoid him. Klein's car then also made impact with a nearby wall. Luckily both drivers escaped serious injury, but both cars suffered extensive damage.

Rahal had a moment at the start too. He and Brian Thienes came together in turn four, bending Rahal's left-side suspension and dropping him from sixth to 22nd. He battled back to 12th place by lap 20. His car was bottoming out due to the early incident, however, and he spun going into turn one on the next lap to push him back to 17th at the end.

"James [Hinchcliffe] crowded me at the start, but it was still a good weekend with the win and for the points," Donoso said afterwards. "My car oversteered in some places today and the track was dirty from all the different cars running on it this weekend. First and third is a good weekend though."

"I just missed Graham and Brian Thienes when they spun," Pecorari said. "I chose the inside and both cars went wide, so I missed that one."

"My car was good except in the high-speed esses," he added. "I changed my line several times and did everything I could from the cockpit, but that was all the car would do today. But a fourth and a fifth is good for the points."

"I went under Brian Thienes in turn four but he didn't see me until the very last second, and I spun," Rahal said. "I was close to Jono's crash too. There was stuff [debris] flying all over me. Those were my two closest calls."

Sunday morning Donoso set a new track record when he earned his second series pole. His fastest lap was his 11th one in the qualifying session, which was clocked in 1:28.795 for an average speed of 120.573 mph, breaking Michael McDowell's mark of 1:28.920 (102.429 mph) set last year. Donoso's lap on Sunday was also four-tenths of a second faster than the one he ran in qualifying Saturday to earn that race's pole.

Pecorari was fourth with a lap in 1:29.180 (102.131 mph) and Rahal was sixth with a 1:29.587 (101.667 mph). Only eight-tenths of a second separated the top seven cars among the 40 that recorded times Sunday morning.

Klein ended up 20th in quals on Sunday with a 1:30.714 (100.403 mph) when his car had engine problems.

Both of the Infineon races supported the American Le Mans Series Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Ravenswood Winery.

Donoso's triumph is slated to be covered on SPEED at 2 p.m. EDT on Aug. 7, while Sunday's race is scheduled to be shown on the same network at 1 p.m. EDT Aug. 14. Highlights of Pecorari's victory at Pikes Peak will be included in the Infineon broadcasts.

Seven races are now in the books for 2005 and five remain. The next one is scheduled for July 28-30 at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore. The rest of the 2005 schedule shows an event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on Aug. 18-20; Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada Sept. 1-3; Road Atlanta Sept. 28-30 (part of the Petit Le Mans) and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Oct. 13-15.

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Marco Andretti , Robbie Pecorari , Pablo Donoso , Jonathan Klein , James Hinchcliffe , Brian Thienes , Phil Saville