Morning update from Sonoma

It’s an overcast mid-60 degree morning here at Sonoma Raceway. As I stare out from the media center overlooking the pit straight, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager Steve Page is introducing five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who is about to host a Q & A session with fans.

Talking to some of the locals, the cloud cover is expected to burn off shortly. Sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s are expected for today.

If you've ever been to Sonoma Raceway or just even Sonoma County you don't need me to tell you of the romantic rolling hillside landscape and picturesque vineyards as far as the eye can see. Sonoma County is home to around 250 wineries and an estimated 1100 growers of wine.

Yesterday, amidst the late-afternoon setting California sunshine, the fine people here at Sonoma Raceway invited the media to sample Glen Ellen-based Pangloss Winery's varietals. Pangloss is a small winery producing about 3000 cases a year, and they featured their Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. This particular motorsports columnist opted for the Pinot and you're ever out this way, do yourself a favor and give it a try.

Despite such distractions, I have managed to actually get some work done. As I noted in yesterday's report I spent a few minutes with Page, and specifically spoke with him about the track's Verizon IndyCar Series event.

The track will host IndyCar for the 11th consecutive year this August. Last year, the track and series extended their deal through 2017. Of course, with the way the schedule fell this season, Sonoma is hosting the 'double-points' season-finale. Knowing the series' stated-desire to end by Labor Day I asked Page if hosting the finale was something he was interested in going forward.

Page simply stated the finale for IndyCar this season was a "one-off." Excluding the fact Boston has already been announced for Labor Day weekend 2016, Page noted that he prized the date equity of the IndyCar event over hosting the finale. He pointed to this race at the end of June, the NHRA event in late-July and the IndyCar race in late-August as ideal spacing for the track.

Also, Page noted that Labor Day weekend is Wine Auction Weekend in Sonoma (hence why Sonoma did not host this year's finale on the Labor Day date Mark Miles so craves?), in which he said the hotels were already pretty-booked, and anything beyond the last weekend in August is undesirable with NFL, Major League Baseball, school beginning and the like.

In short, while we know certain IndyCar promoters have expressed frustration with their spots on the calendar in recent years, Page is very happy with Sonoma's IndyCar spot.

Last, I asked Page if he had any interest in hosting a doubleheader. He admitted that the idea was an intriguing but that he wasn't sure how it would work. Noting that there was a certain value in the buildup to a Sunday race, Page noted that he'd have to think about the balancing act that would bring.

Well, that's all I have for now. The NASCAR K & N West Pro Series is about to being their qualifying session. Stay tuned for more updates.

Brian Carroccio reporting from Sonoma Raceway

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