Friday, August 21, 2009

Sonoma Preview

By: Tony Donohue

The Indy Car series rolls into the wine country of Sonoma, California this weekend for the final road course of the 2009 season. This may be the “wild card” if you will that decides the 2009 championship.

Infineon Raceway saw Team Penske take the top two spots last year at this race, with Helio Castroneves winning and teammate Ryan Briscoe second. Helio started from the pole, and beat Briscoe to the line by over five seconds. Scott Dixon, who was battling Helio in the points race, finished 12th that day allowing Helio to gain 35 championship points.

This weekend at Infineon is up for grabs. In the four races that have been held, there hasn’t been a repeat winner. That trend may continue this week as championship contenders Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti look to make their move to atop the point standings. The 75 lap race will start at 5 p.m. Eastern on Versus.

The Firestone Indy Lights Series will also tackle the Sonoma course for 40 laps in the Carneros 100. Unlike last season, only one race will be ran for the Lights at Sonoma. Last season, Franck Perera who started the season in the Indy Car Series, took the pole and the win, only to be duplicated the next day by Pablo Donoso. The points race is shaping up between J.R. Hildebrand, Sebastian Saavedra and James Davison who picked up his first win of the season two weeks ago at Mid Ohio.

In the Lights race, I will take the top 5 in points over the rest of the field. James Hinchcliffe and Wade Cunningham round out that five, Wade won at Infineon back in 2006. Hinchcliffe has finished in the top 6 in all the road and street events this season. But I won’t sit on the fence, and will take James Davison to make it back to back on road courses. Watch for Martin Plowman as my darkhorse.

On the Indy Car side of things, I will take Helio Castroneves to take his 2nd straight Sonoma victory. Helio is always strong in the wine country, he has never qualified out of the Top 5 there, and has the victory last season to go with 3 other Top 5’s. My dark horse, Andretti Green and Andretti AFS Racing. Danica has been making a lot of progress on the road events, and Marco won his only race here back in 2006. Tony Kanaan still has time to salvage and decent season, and Hideki Mutoh was 5th at Mid Ohio. Look for Franck Montagy to be impressive in his first run as well. Also, one other driver to watch out for is E.J. Viso. I think the addition of Robert Doornbos will help E.J. tremendously. E.J. was 6th at Sonoma last season, and is also strong on road courses.


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