Cheat Sheet: Sonoma 2007

Posted by Iannucci | 8/26/2007 | 0 comments »
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The best part of putting together the favorites for the Motorola Indy 300 at Infineon Raceway is that we once again get to gaze in disbelief at the final standings from the 2005 race. Tony Kanaan was the winner, but the rest of the scoring is unlike any other in recent memory.

2. Buddy Rice
3. Alex Barron
4. Patrick Carpentier
5. Thomas Enge
6. Kosuke Matsuura

Betcha didn’t have them in your fantasy picks.

In the same race two years ago Scott Dixon was 8th, while his current Well Done teammate was 10 spots ack. Neither Penske driver finished higher than 17th. Jeff Bucknum(!) was 10th, Roger Yasukawa(!!) was 11th, and Giorgio Pantano(who?) was 14th.

Heck, Ryan Briscoe actually led the race for 16 laps before an accident ended his day.

Juxtapose that with last year’s snoozefest where Scott Dixon was DEEE-STROYING the field, right up until a pit miscue dropped him down to 10th. He forced his way back to 4th, but the error likely cost him his second ICS championship.

Meanwhile, despite running low on fuel Marco Andretti notched his first win, courtesy of Brian Herta’s team-ordered spinout. (OK, I don’t know that there was a team order, and I don’t even know if it was intentional. I just know a lot of people made a big deal about it so I’m mentioning it. Please don’t ban me from the Andretti Winery for pointing this out.)

So what’s the lesson of racing at Sonoma? Consume plenty of caffeine and wait for the silliness to break out. Here are your favorites for the 2007 edition.

Dixon – Duh. He's already won at Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio. All that's left is to tell the seagulls to stay clear of the Iceman.

Kanaan – Nariz has not received the memo that he has a 1% chance of winning the title. He’s won two straight races and has no intention of slowing down now. Plus, he is NOT a seagull.

Franchitti – Dario needs to get his head out of the clouds and stay grounded. He needs to set aside his lofty ambitions for now and just keep his feet (and all four wheels) firmly planted on the ground. He’s really soared up the championship standings, but…let me know when I’ve beaten this into the gorund.

Andretti – He's undefeated at Infineon! Seriously though, it’s not really a fluke that Andretti 3.0 won last year since he’s very familiar with this track. Marco qualifed 6th and 4th on the two previous roadies this year, so expect to see him up front all day. Unless of course Kanaan hip-checks him again.

Patrick – AGR has won both of the previous races, leading 81 of the 160 total laps. Danica! finished 5th at Mid Ohio, so her road course skills from her Formula Ford and Toyota Atlantic days are re-emerging. Maybe black cars really are faster.

Wheldon – Would you believe Dan is the only driver to have led a lap in the previous two races here? Do you think that means he has any chance of winning this race? Is it possible I put him behind Danica! just because they seem to have some sort of subliminal attraction to each other? Why am I asking all of these questions?

Castroneves – At the beginning fo the season this man might have been considered a favorite for this race, but Helio is still suffering through the Year of the Pig with corresponding misfortune. One more race until Belle Isle, Helio. Just one more circuit until the race you own.

Meira – Only three drivers have finished in the Top 10 in both events here. Franchitti and Dixon – who are battling for the series championship – and Poor Vitor Meira. 0 for 73 with 48 Top 10s.

Manning – He hasn’t raced an IndyCar here, but Danger Mouse has started and finished in the Top 10 at both Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio this year. He’s expected to look good this weekend, and might I recommend he enjoy a fresh Anchor Steam after a solid performance on Sunday.

Rice – Like Manning, he too has started and finished in the Top 10 at both Watkins Glen and Mid Ohio. Maybe they can just follow each other around and pretend they’re teammates on Sunday.

Hornish – Did you forget that Uncle Sam finished 2nd at Watkins Glen? Yes, you did when he his old man went ballistic after the race and Sam promptly finished 14th at Mid Ohio. Question: If we all pitched in and got Sam a Magic 8-Ball do you think we could decide this NAPCAR thing once and for all?

Matsuura – The way he’s been knocked about all year makes me think HE should have the Target sponsorship. Maybe if they paint a “Baby On Board” sign on his car the other drivers might be more cautious around him. Despite having a better than usual chance on this road course, even P1 and P2 are getting excited about seeing Hideki Mutoh soon.

Hunter-Reay – Ryan looked good at Mid Ohio and Jeff Simmons rallied the Ethanol car to 7th last year. OK, that last part has nothing to do with RHR, but we just thought it was time to say a kind word about Spock now that Silly Season has begun.

Sharp – Scott says it’s like a home town track since he once lived nearby and has races all kinds of cars here. History says he still hasn’t broken the Top 10 in and IndyCar on this track. Reality says he likely won’t do it this weekend either.

Scheckter, Carpenter –hasn’t gotten past the 57 lap mark in either attempt here, so simply finishing the race will be an improvement. Ed hasn’t broken the Top 10 either in two tries on this course, but his 6th place at Watkins Glen beats any ICS road finish in Scheckter’s career. Go figure.

Fisher, Foyt – Welcome to Sonoma!

Money Says: My pick is Dixon (sorry—no brainer I know)

No brainer indeed, unless of course a helicopter full of clowns arrives late in the race. Your humble correspondent will be “in the house” at Infineon, so for the rest of you at home – Enjoy the show!