Forty years ago, Gurney won Infineon's 1st
Twenty-five cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series will compete this weekend on the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway circuit in pursuit of the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma title. Forty years ago, 26 cars competed in the first Indy car race on the natural-terrain course.
|Dan Gurney leads the field in the Golden State 150 on April 4, 1970, at then-Sears Point International Raceway.|
Dan Gurney won the USAC Championship Golden Gate 150 at Sears Point International Raceway on April 4, 1970, in the Olsonite Eagle F69/Gurney Weslake Ford.
“Another champion came in second, and that was Mario (Andretti),” Gurney said last week at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. “I have great respect for Mario. We were intense competitors whenever we drove in the same race. It was a great achievement to be able to hold him off in that race. I tried to get even because he beat me in the ’69 (runner-up to Andretti after starting 10th in the Indianapolis 500) at the Speedway but it wasn’t quite the same.”
Gurney took the lead at Sears Point from Andretti on Lap 4 and led the remaining 57 laps on the 2.523-mile course to beat Andretti by one second. Al Unser finished third. Mark Donahue qualified on the pole but retired early.
More Photos | AR1.com's Photos of Gurney's Car at Monterey Motorsports Reunion
It was Gurney’s seventh and last Indy car victory in a distinguished career.
“I have a tape of when my dad won in 1970 over Mario Andretti,” sports car driver Alex Gurney said. “That was another classic. With almost no downforce, those cars really slid around.”
Opened in November 1968, then-Sears Point Raceway (named after 1850’s settler Franklin Sears) was constructed on 720 acres of property that was a working dairy farm in the early 1900s. The facility hosted its first official event, an SCCA Enduro, on Dec. 1 of that year. The 1970 USAC-sanctioned Indy car race was the only one until the IZOD IndyCar Series added the venue to its 2005 schedule.
Five different drivers have won in as many years at Infineon Raceway, with Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti the ’09 champion on his way to the series’ driver’s title. He’s also a two-time pole winner.
“To start up front is very important at Infineon Raceway and we managed to get the pole position in the final moments of qualifying (last August),” said Franchitti, who enters the 75-lap race second to Team Penske’s Will Power in the championship standings. “We had a very fast car, made no mistakes, made great pit stops and we got the victory, and we were right in the thick of the championship hunt and that made a big difference to the points score.
“This year, you have to keep the expectations in check because, yeah, we did great last year, but each race you go to, no matter what you did the race before or the race last year, you’ve got to start from zero again and get the car working right, and everybody’s got to go out and earn it again. We need to go out and focus on working hard, rather than on what we did before.” IndyCar.com