Overheard at Sonoma – Sunday

UPDATE Regarding our report on Sunday (below) that participants wanted the P2P delay removed – INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, has removed the activation delay to the overtake assist for this weekend's Grand Prix of Baltimore.

The push-to-pass system has been utilized at Toronto and Edmonton with an activation delay of 5 seconds introduced at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5. The delay was reduced to 3.5 seconds for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 26. The system will have no delay for the final road/street race of the 2012 season at Baltimore.


Houston Layout

A perfect day weather-wise Sunday for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and a nice size crowd was on hand in what appeared to be about 10% more than last year. Traffic was lined up for miles trying to get into the track this morning. I spoke to Sonoma Speedway President Steve Page who told us they have not signed the final contract papers yet but to expect IndyCar back next year and probably 2014 as well.

Ran into Mike Lanigan, the promoter of next year's Grand Prix of Houston the first weekend in October. He is very excited about the event and especially having Shell Oil onboard as they have already activated their sponsorship. We asked Mike about bringing Cleveland back but he said he wants to make Houston a success first. He would like to do it someday if a title sponsor can be found. As previously reported, the track layout will essentially be the same as what Champ Car used.

In my Friday column I asked whether Ed Carpenter's wife was expecting their 3rd or 4th child. It turns out it will be child #3. And regarding Don Prudhomme being in the IndyCar paddock again this weekend, as it turns out he is friends with Chip Ganassi and Chip is leasing Don's shop in Brownsburg, Indiana for his Rahal/Kimball IndyCar team.

F1 Pit Reporter Will Buxton got to ride in the IndyCar 2-seater with Mario Andretti this morning. He said it was a real rush around the undulating Sonoma track and a real honor to ride along with Mario who was pushing it hard and stepping the backend out.

I spoke to Roger Penske before the start of the race about several hot topics facing IndyCar right now. As for new body kits, he is against them until 2014 so expect that is what IndyCar will announce. Roger is not happy about some people airing IndyCar's dirty laundry in the public and just wants everyone to focus on the competition and building a stronger series. He is not an advocate of team owners running a race series.

As for the idea of doubleheaders as floated by Randy Bernard, Roger said he would support whatever the league decided to do but that he was not in favor of them. "It is more important to contain costs, build the series and have a strong consistent schedule. That is what we need to focus on."

For next year Roger said his goal was to have the same 3-car team with the same drivers assuming the necessary sponsorship comes through. And as for his son Jay Penske's Dragon Racing team right behind his two cars in third on the grid, Roger said, "If anyone beats us I hope it's them."

Rumor has it that IndyCar wants Firestone to widen the gap between the back and red tires next year for street and road courses. If IndyCar implements standing starts as widely anticipated next year, it is not an in issue for Firestone but it is an issue for teams who will want the better grip of the red tires at the start.

And look for Rubens Barrichello back in IndyCar next year. Any talk of an F1 return is just fodder. Rubens feels next year will be better now that he knows the tracks. Rumor is that Tony Kanaan will re-sign with KV Racing.

And do not look for an IndyCar return to Japan anytime soon. The damaged track was not the issue. The issue was money. Honda no longer felt the cost was worth it.

Quote of the weekend comes from James Hinchcliffe: "You know you have missed the setup when your car is better with a broken front wing than it is with a good front wing."

None of the participants were in favor of the 3.5 second delay in the activation of the Push-To-Pass boost that was implemented to stop it from being used defensively. We did not have a chance to ask IndyCar whether they were happy with the result.

Word is that Josef Newgarden will be back with Sarah Fisher's team in 2013 and Simon Pagenaud will be back with Sam Schmidt's team.

And did you notice that big NASCAR logo painted on the track at the hairpin of the Sonoma track for all to see? Is Bruton Smith trying to make sure all channel surfing non-race fan viewers think they are watching a NASCAR race instead of an IndyCar race. Mark C. reporting from Sonoma.

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