The two drivers became the first to test a modified version of the 12-turn Sonoma Valley road course that may be used for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County next year (Aug. 22-24). The modifications between Turns 6-7 take the drivers directly up the drag strip and around the outside of Turn 7, which is normally used in the NASCAR configuration.
The changes, a result of collaboration between the IndyCar Series, Infineon Raceway and the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, are expected to produce more passing zones.
“As far as the corner itself, I think it’s going to make an improvement for the race," said Dixon, defending champion at Infineon Raceway. “Hopefully, it’s going to create a passing opportunity for some people. I think it’s a good choice and will make a great addition to the weekend."
Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) posted the quickest lap time of the day at one minute, 18.2 seconds. Hunter-Reay (Rahal Letterman Racing) had a best lap time of 1:18.8. Ryan Briscoe holds the qualifying record on the previous configuration at 1:16.491, while Dario Franchitti captured the pole for last season’s event with a lap of 1:16.702. Dixon’s teammate Dan Wheldon was also at the track on Friday observing the test, but did not get behind the wheel.
“Eliminating the bend to the left and now going up the drag strip makes for a wider passing opportunity and I think that’s good. Any passing opportunity is great for the series and good for the fans who come out and watch," said Hunter-Reay, who qualified 7th on his debut in 2007, however, only managed to run five laps before retiring with mechanical problems resulting in an 18th place finish at Infineon Raceway in 2007..