In an effort to spice up the show at the increasingly dull Infineon Raceway in Northern California, circuit management have consulted Team Penske drivers Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, who respectively bookended the team’s ultra-dominant 1-2-3 qualifying and race performances this season either side of team-mate Helio Castroneves.
For the fourth consecutive year, the pole-sitter at Infineon has gone on to win the race, and in the case of the 2009 event, won by Dario Franchitti, who never lost the lead at any stage of the race, even during the pit stops.
Although a challenging, picturesque layout through undulating hills near the vineyards of the Napa Valley, a distinct lack of overtaking opportunities – save for some kamikaze-style self-made chances by the latest of the late braking drivers – usually make for some somewhat processional races.
In fact, of the previous four the Sonoma Grands Prix, the winner has led an astonishing 89% of the laps run on the way to the top step of the podium.
Speaking to Power, Briscoe and Penske Team President Tim Cindric during the Las Vegas weekend over some ideas for spicing up the Sunday afternoon on-track action, Infineon President Steve Page said: “Some of the ideas for changes to the track were pretty wild and ambitious, but we wanted to keep all ideas on the table from a creative standpoint”.
Page also believes the 2012 Dallara DW12 chassis will open up some more opportunities for passing by the time the series returns in August next season.
Ideas mooted by Briscoe and Power ranged from longer straights with longer braking zones to running on the longer NASCAR circuit, which differs via an extension to the circuit between Turns 3 & 4.
Some more fun, yet somewhat unfeasible suggestions included utilising the drag strip which runs parallel to the straight following the iconic Carousel corner and adding hairpin corners to encourage more overtaking, similar to the Adelaide hairpin at the Magny-Cours circuit in France, scene of so many great and not-so-great overtaking attempts over its run as a Formula 1 venue.
Following the meeting, all parties left feeling confident that whatever ideas Infineon decided to implement would lead to more entertaining racing for the fans.
Or the series could just go back to Road America … or both.
[Article by Matt Lennon; images via LAT]
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