If you missed the Sonoma race this weekend, you missed a lot. For the first time in many seasons, I remained conscious for the entirety of the race at Infineon. Now before the haters start digging into me, let me say (and if you read my Mid-Ohio post you’ll know this to be true) I love road courses. In fact, the circuit at Sears Point, aka Sonoma, aka Infineon, is a heck of a lot of fun to drive. Sadly, its not a heck of a lot of fun, typically, for the spectators. This year, though, we were treated to some genuine battles throughout the grid all race long. Ok, the middle part of the race was a bit uneventful, but the beginning and ending sure made up for it.
Let’s begin with Marco Andretti. At the beginning of the race, complete mayhem ensued when Marco cut directly in front of Graham Rahal causing a complete accordion effect. Carbon fiber was everywhere, knocking many either out of the race or at least out of contention, including his own teammates Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick. This is Marco’s favourite turn on the course, Turn 2, where he and his former teammate locked wheels near the end of the 2007 race, ruining Dario’s chance for a victory and darn near costing him the championship. Marco kept with the “Ruiner of Championships” role and speared Scott Dixon’s attenuator on the last turn of the last lap. This cost Dixon three points in the championship. With the championship battle so tight this season, those three points could mean the difference between Champ or Chump!
Ok, enough about Marco and onto the always animated Helio Castroneves. Helio hit nearly everyone that went into Turn 9 with him this week. In the morning warm-up, Moraes was blazing fast, and trying to get around Helio’s slower car. Going into Turn 9, Helio slammed the door on Mario and tossed him into the air. Fortunately, no serious damage was done, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Helio would again find himself a bit to close to a competitor during the race when Kanaan attempted to pass in that same Turn 9. Again, Helio turns into the passing car and gets the car airborne. This time, there was damage done, and it would cost both drivers dearly. Helio’s damaged rear suspension finally gave out later in the race in Turn 1 and he went hard into the dirt berm. After the race, the two Brazilians had extremely different takes on what happened. Ok, all three Brazilians if you lump Mario in there as well.
“He didn’t give me enough room. I put two wheels in the grass.” —Tony Kanaan post-race at Sonoma.
“Because Tony said he spoke with me (did not) and before I watched the replay on TV,I did mention that I did not gave him enough room but now watching the video I have to say…my friend Tony, it is not the first time your view is different than mine! The good news, life goes on and we are both safe!” —Helio Castroneves via Twitter.
Helio is dangerously close to wearing the black hat, here. Quite honestly, there are a number of people that will see him as a target this weekend at Chicagoland. I’ll be in Indianapolis for the MotoGP race, and I doubt that the motel gets Versus. …bummer. This weekends race will be one to watch. The racing at Chicago is always fantastic, but with Helio making enemies on track right and left, the action should be even more intense. Is it too early to call Helio the new PT?
Oh! Almost forgot. Franchitti (pronounced Fran-CHET-ee by Versus), won the race from pole. Nicely done that. Briscoe sat on his gear box the whole race and regained the championship lead. Big congrats to Mike Conway for his first podium finish. Perhaps this kid is starting to figure out the Dallara/Honda. We’ll have more on the ever improving Mr. Conway later. Also my personal congratulations to Hideki Mutoh for his second top five in a row, and fourth for the season.