It’s out with the old, in with the new at Sonoma this weekend.
We have a new track name (“Sonoma” replaces “Infineon Raceway”), new track configuration (turns 7, 9 and 11 have been reworked), and it’s the first race here for the DW12 chassis.
There has been a good deal of testing at the track, with the most recent test being last Friday on the new configuration, and the feedback from the drivers was positive. They’re predicting a race with passing and excitement like we’ve never seen before at this venue.
Heading into the weekend, we have a four-horse race for the championship, which is certainly not like the last few seasons of Dario Franchitti-Will Power battles. Familiar names in the fight are Power, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon. The new kid on the block is Ryan Hunter-Reay, who barged into contention with three wins in a row over the summer. (Franchitti is out of the running in eighth, so after his long domination we’ll have a new champion.)
GoPro is on board to sponsor the race with a new three-year contract. And there’s a new wave of reports and rumors that the owners are trying to oust Randy Bernard again, this time with a few of them banding together to buy the Series and gain control. We’ll have to see if Randy has any comment this weekend on the state of his relationship with the owners.
Friday’s one practice saw Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Sebastien Bourdais at the top of the speed chart. The session was somewhat eventful, with drivers particularly enjoying a bit of off-roading at turn 3a. Charlie Kimball crashed early in the session and ended his day. Power went off at least twice before ending up fastest. And there was plenty of talk from Race Control about the new yellow line that separates the reconfigured turn 11 from the pit lane entrance. Drivers are to keep all four tires to the right of that line, so that’s something to watch for during qualifying and the race. For the full results of practice and everything else you need to know about this race, keep an eye on our Event Summary all weekend long.
I’ll be on site for practice and qualifying later today. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @SpeedFreakBash for updates from the track as often as mobile coverage allows, and please also follow @MoreFrontWing for off-track updates throughout the weekend and all season long.