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Infineon boss Page bullish on IndyCar
Infineon Raceway president Steve Page says the volume of foot traffic at an IZOD event in downtown San Francisco, the phone calls the track has received and the media coverage are testaments “to increased buzz” surrounding the IZOD IndyCar Series.

This weekend’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma – the sixth IZOD IndyCar Series event at the natural-terrain road course – is the lone event this year at Infineon Raceway in which advance ticket sales are up over the prior year, according to Page.

“So we’re definitely getting some traction,” he said. “Open-wheel racing has been in the wilderness for a few years, but we’re seeing real signs that it’s bouncing back. We’re very bullish on the series.”

Page credits series title sponsor IZOD with creatively and effectively marketing the series with events such as the one Aug. 19 at Union Square in San Francisco.  Along with a media event featuring Mario Andretti, Will Power and Danica Patrick, thousands of fans and casual shoppers were treated to historic Indianapolis 500 cars on Geary Street and an autograph session with stars of present and past – all at the Macy’s store decked out in IZOD-inspired banners, signs and window/store displays.

“There was a long period of time that people lost the image of what open-wheel racing was, but now it’s back,” said Page, who oversees the Speedway Motorsports Inc. track. “The name Indy is attached to it. We want to bring a new generation of fans in, but we want to reach out and get those fans that were probably alienation during the split and let them know that the icon that they value is back.”

Teams and the IZOD IndyCar Series also are hosting large (about 800 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport, about 500 for A.J. Foyt Racing) sponsor events at the track.

There have been five different IndyCar Series winners – six if you count the 1970 USAC-sanctioned Indy car race won by Dan Gurney before the long hiatus – at Infineon.

“It seems like yesterday that we made the announcement that IndyCars were going to come here,” Page said. “I remember the year before driving around with Mario (Andretti) because he was here for an event and I said, ‘We’re talking IndyCars. Can you show me what we need to do to make this track work for open-wheel cars?’ ’’ Page said. “And he spent about an hour driving around every corner pointing out things.

“It’s a great legacy at our track and for California to have IndyCars.”

Drivers visit Target House

During the off week, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti stopped by Target House in Memphis, Tenn., to visit with children and their families.

Since 1999, more than 1,300 children and families have called Target House home. Target House provides nearly 100 free, fully-equipped apartments for families and patients receiving long-term treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Fifteen opportunities for overtake assist

IZOD IndyCar Series drivers will have 15 pushes of the Honda overtake assist system available for the 75-lap race. Each burst of 200 RPM will last 15 seconds. There’s a 10-second recharge period between uses.

Overtake assist will make its second appearance at Infineon Raceway. One overtake assist use will be enabled for Sunday morning warm-up.

Firestone brings new alternate tires

Each car in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race weekend receives six sets (24 tires) of primary tires and three sets (12 tires) of the alternate (red-sidewall) tires.

The primary tire specification for Infineon Raceway was used as the alternate tire at the 2010 Barber and Edmonton events.  The alternates are new for this race. The primary spec is the softest primary Firestone will use all season. The alternate tires are identical in construction to the primaries but contain an even softer tread compound, which will provide more grip and faster lap times, yet will trade off some compound durability in exchange for those shorter-term advantages.

Dixon, Kanaan the ironmen

Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Tony Kanaan, both previous winners at Infineon Raceway, are the only drivers to complete every lap (395) in the five IZOD IndyCar Series races.

Franchitti’s milestone

Dario Franchitti, the defending Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma winner, won his first Indy car race on Aug. 16, 1998. He led 23 laps en route to victory at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Franchitti, who won at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Aug. 8, has 25 career wins in Indy car racing, with 15 coming in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

No. 1,250 and counting

The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark Penske Racing’s 1,250th all-time open-wheel racing start. ... On Aug. 21, Indy Downforce members and race fans can sample Foyt wines and enjoy hors d'oeuvres at the Roots in Sonoma Tasting Room located in Cornerstone Sonoma. Larry Foyt and driver Vitor Meira will be on hand to sign Foyt Family Wine bottles. Vouchers for the event cost $15 and will be available in the Indy FanZone from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Aug. 21 at Infineon Raceway. IndyCar.com

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