Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Carneros 100

Today's race at Infineon Raceway went very well. The morning dawned very cool with lots of cloud cover and it was even misting at the hotel. For our warm up at 8:30, my engineer and I had made some changes to the car. My first impression was very positive and some of the other drivers struggled with the cool track temperature. There were four spinners on the out lap! We ended the session in 10th, but I knew there was more to come in the race.

I had qualified in 9th, but the #27 AFS car of Sebastien Saavedra had to change an engine before qualifying because he had crashed. When he crashed, gravel got into the belts and a new unit had to be put into the car. Because the engine wasn't out of miles, he got sent to the back. I would roll up to the green flag in 8th, on the outside of row 4. I had a decent start, fought off Plowman and tried to take advantage of moves ahead. I couldn't make any progress though and finished lap 1 in 8th. Then as we came around to finish our second lap, a full course yellow came out for the stranded car of Gustavo Yacaman. It took a few laps for them to clean up the incident and then it was back to green flag racing. I was following Mario Romancini and trying to take advantage oh him being held up by a train of cars. Then after about lap 15, I made a late braking move into turn 5, the second gear right hander after the fast left-right combination of turn 3-4. I then pulled away and up to the gearbox of my teammate Richard Phillipe. I ran most of the race in the back of the train of cars ahead and couldn't make a move stick. There were some overtaking ahead of me, but I couldn't take advantage of the chaos to move forward. Once, as I tried to overtake James Hinchcliffe ahead of me, I had to avoid Romancini trying to pass both of us. We went into turn 11, the last hairpin, three wide and all managed to come out in the exact same positions as we went into it. On lap 34 (out of 40), I was struggling with a slightly sticky throttle pedal, I lost some exit speed and Saavedra, who had worked his way through the field, made a very late pass into turn 11. I ran wide so that he wouldn't run into the side of me and had to settle for 8th. I was pleased to finish in the top 10 and with the progress my engineer and I made with the car over the weekend. The points I got for 8th put me back up to 9th in the points standings. It will be tough to catch 8th with only two races remaining, but I am sure I can solidify my 9th place in the next races.

My family and I have stopped at Harris Ranch in Coalinga alongside the 5 for dinner. It is about halfway home and they do a very tasty steak!

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