Archive for September, 2018

Random Thoughts On Sonoma

Posted in IndyCar on September 17, 2018 by Oilpressure

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season has come to a close. The Grand Prix of Sonoma was billed as The Final Finale, as the IndyCar finale moves down the coast south of San Francisco near Monterey.

It’s no secret that I have had some unkind things to say about the finale being at Sonoma, over the years – especially with double points being assigned to this race. I’ve also had some harsh words for the race and even the appearance of the facility and the area.

My wife Susan will tell you that I don’t easily admit it when I’m wrong – but this one time when I’ll freely admit that I was wrong. I’m still not crazy about the brown grass everywhere, but this whole area is gorgeous. The clear skies and the stark mountain ranges have won me over. I never thought I’d use the word “quaint” to describe California, but this area is scattered with small quaint little towns that all have their own personalities.

We are staying through Wednesday and I look forward to exploring other attractions that have nothing to do with racing.

Unfortunately, the scenery and the quaintness cannot improve the racing at Sonoma Raceway for Indy cars. I saw a lot of support racing over the weekend that featured lots of passing. I don’t know if these cars are too big, too fast or too closely matched – but there s a reason that this race has earned the nickname Snoroma.

If you read my wrap-up last night, you know my position that had it not been for Alexander Rossi charging through the field around the mid-point of the race – this would have been a snoozer. However, Rossi’s drive put a lot of life into an otherwise dull race that saw Ryan Hunter-Reay win pretty much uncontested.

Andretti’s Day: Alexander Rossi running into the back of Marco Andretti was about the only misstep of the weekend for Andretti Autosport. Three of the four Andretti cars qualified in the Fast Six, and the other was in the Top-Ten. They won the race and had three cars in the Top-Seven. The only blemish on their weekend was Rossi not winning the championship. Not bad for a team embroiled in rumors concerning Harding Racing, George Steinbrenner IV, McLaren, Fernando Alonso, Honda and Chevy.

Sonoma Raceway: Aside from changing my opinion on this track, one ting that surprised me is how confined the track really is. From watching races at this track over the years, I was always under the impression that it was spread out over a large area. I was surprised to discover that each turn leads to a straightaway that parallels anther straightway right next to it. They just might be separated by a small hill. The track really runs back and forth and you can see almost the entire track from several vantage points. That’s just another example how television can sometimes distort racing events.

Surprise Air Show: I was unaware that each year, this track provides an air show to fans about an hour before the race. Six jets from a group called the Patriot Jet Team performed aerobatics that were similar but not as sophisticated as the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds. Still, they performed a few moves that got my attention – especially since I was just below them in harms way, in case something went wrong. Fortunately, the show came off without a hitch. The open sky here provided a good venue for such a show, but this would be a good hook for other tracks to try this.

01Flyover

Bad Day for Rahal: It was announced Sunday morning that Takuma Sato would indeed return to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2019. That was about the only positive news for the team this weekend. Graham Rahal qualified ninth in missing the Fast Six, and Sato qualified twelfth – dead last in the second round.

Sato’s engine let go in a spectacular way on Lap 15, reminiscent of some of the blown engines we saw at Indianapolis in 2017, and he finished last in the race. Rahal had a battery issue that saw him park the car off course on Lap 44. He did go back out several laps down, and finished twenty-third – dropping him to eighth in the final championship standings.

The Next Big Thing: If you weren’t impressed with the job that Patricio (Pato) O’Ward did in his IndyCar debut, you may not appreciate just how hard it is to succeed in this series.

When he posted the third quickest time in Friday’s afternoon practice, I think most people considered it a fluke. I’ll admit that I did. He certainly turned heads on Saturday when the rookie and newly crowned Indy Lights champion made the Fast Six and qualified fifth for the race. Skeptics still thought reality would set n and the rookie would be a back marker for most of the race.

There was a period when he was holding up an entire column of cars, but he recovered and gave himself and Harding Racing a very solid ninth place finish. Expect to see O’Ward and Herta in some iteration of Harding called Steinbrenner Harding Racing that is supposedly going to be announced this week at Yankee Stadium. At least that was the unofficial buzz here this weekend.

Drive of the Day: As usual, there were several candidates for drive of the day at Sonoma yesterday. Will Power did not make the Fast Six and started seventh, but he made a strong move on the inside to pass O’Ward in the hairpin and finished third. Santino Ferrucci qualified the third Dale Coyne entry twentieth on the grid. But the rookie drove the distinctive purple car to a solid eleventh place finish. Jordan King also had a great run for Ed Carpenter Racing, after a disastrous qualifying session that saw him qualify twenty-fifth. King rebounded nicely and finished thirteenth yesterday.

But to me, the obvious choice for drive of the day is Alexander Rossi. After he suffered wing damage on the opening lap, Rossi got his front wing changed and rejoined the race at the very back of the field. After an opportune yellow on Lap 44, Rossi was able to start carving his way up through the field. He went from last all the way up to fifth, before settling for a seventh place finish. He may not have won the championship, but Rossi did have the drive of the day.

All in all: Had it not been for Rossi’s passing clinic in the middle section of the race, this would have been a very boring race – and that’s from someone who was in attendance in the pits when I got to experience shiny race cars whizzing by. It probably would have been even more boring watching on television.

But other than the potentially boring race saved by Rossi – this was a perfect weekend. The weather could not have been better, although the late start made it very cold by the end of the race if you were standing in the shade like we were. But as I said earlier, we have really taken to this area and the folks at the track could not have been nicer. The drivers all lamented the fact that the series was leaving Sonoma and I don’t think that was just lip service. They seemed genuinely upset that this was the last race at this track that is very impressive in person.

Next week we’ll turn our attention to the offseason and begin the annual speculation about next season. With all the possibilities of new teams, this promises to be a very entertaining offseason.

I’ll close by thanking everyone that followed us this past weekend at Sonoma and all through the season. But remember, this site does not go on hiatus during the offseason. I’ll be here regularly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – except for the times that I take a few breaks – like this Wednesday. Please enjoy the following photos that Susan took while we were here at the track this weekend – including the famous Miss Linda Vaughn and Chip Ganassi crowd surfing.

George Phillips

Please Note: Susan and I are staying out here in Sonoma trough Wednesday. I have no idea what we will do tomorrow, but it will probably involve visiting a winery. On Tuesday, we will go into San Francisco where we already have tickets to tour Alcatraz that afternoon as well as a lot of touristy things. There will be no post here on Wednesday Sep 19, but I will have a semi-racing related post on Friday Sep 21, that will also have a lot of photos from our trip – including more photos from the track. – GP

02flag drop

03kanaan

04power

05pags

07Ed

08herta

09linda

10newgarden

11rossi daly

12rossi car

13hunter reay trophy

14Hunter Reay wine

15team share wine

16hunter reay champ

17Emma win

18dixon astor

19the dixons

20chip peace2

21dixon cup

22dixon press

23chip surf 3


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Sonoma Post-Race Wrap-Up

Posted in IndyCar on September 16, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Who says you can’t pass at Sonoma? While the front of the field was rather stagnant, as he has done several times this season – Alexander Rossi proved that passing can take place on tracks when other drivers seemingly find it impossible.

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It’s Race Day At Sonoma Raceway!

Posted in IndyCar on September 16, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Welcome to another sun-drenched morning at Sonoma Raceway! Today’s weather is pretty much a carbon-copy of yesterday and Friday, which means…perfect. It was a brisk 45° when we woke up at our Petaluma hotel this morning. There is not a cloud in the sky and the gusty winds that were blowing yesterday seem to have subsided.

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Sonoma Qualifying Wrap-Up

Posted in IndyCar on September 15, 2018 by Oilpressure

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The pole has been decided for the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Sonoma Raceway. Although championship contenders Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon both made the Fast Six, neither of them snagged the pole and the bonus point that goes with it.

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Why We Now Like Sonoma

Posted in IndyCar on September 15, 2018 by Oilpressure

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By Susan Philips

My expectations for Sonoma Raceway were not great. George has harped so much at what a boring race this is and how he can’t stand watching races from here that I really was expecting to not like it here. Maybe it’s because my expectations were so low, but this track has been a real pleasant surprise.

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Day Two At Sonoma

Posted in IndyCar on September 15, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Good morning (or afternoon, depending on where you are) from Sonoma Raceway. It’s cool, which I understand is typical for the mornings here. When we woke up, it was a brisk 48°. The projected high for today is 76°, but it is supposed to be breezy. As we entered the track at around 10:15, our car said it was 61°. Our parking spot is on a hill near Turn Two. I was very glad we had our jackets with us, because we were catching quite a bit of wind up there. The main stands and the Media Center sit down in sort of a valley here. Once we went down the hill, the wind was blocked and it was suddenly much warmer. In short, it’s a perfect day weather-wise at the track.

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Welcome To Sonoma Raceway

Posted in IndyCar on September 14, 2018 by Oilpressure

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Welcome to Sonoma Raceway…Finally!! We had two uneventful flights this morning and arrived in San Francisco about two minutes late. However, or plane had to sit on the tarmac about fifteen minutes (or more), while waiting for another plane to push out. I figured, oh well – if that’s our only delay of the day, that’s not that bad. Or so I thought…

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