The Infineon Raceway is located close to Sonoma, to the north of San Francisco. It serves two purposes: that of a road course track and that of a drag strip. As it is situated in the northern California hills, the track races up and down these hills, together with challenging turns and complicated twists. Not only does the Infineon Raceway host NASCAR events but is home to the American Federation of Motorcyclists series, which holds a few motorcycle events here. Only one of the NASCAR road races is held at the Infineon Raceway. This track was formerly known as the Sears Point Raceway when it opened in 1968.
The Riverside International Raceway, that was located in California, was closed at the end of the 1988 racing season, and was demolished to make way for a new shopping center development project. This left NASCAR searching for a venue to replace Riverside, and decided on the road course at Sears Point. The name, Sears Point, refers to the geographical features of the location, and has therefore no connection to the company Sears. It was renamed after the Infineon Corporation in 2002, although most people still call it by its original name, and the name they’ve grown accustomed to.
The Infineon Raceway is a 4.05 kilometer road course that features twelve turns, and a bypass road that excludes the number 5 and number 6 turns. The bypass is named “The Chute” and it shortens the course to a total racing distance of 3.14 kilometers. The Chute was added in 1998, and is mostly used for events like the NASCAR Dodge/Save Mart 350. Most drivers do not approve of The Chute, and would prefer racing the entire course. The full course layout is used for most of the races, which includes the Grand American Road Racing Association‘s Sonoma Grand Prix.
In 2003 another modification was made to the Infineon Raceway. It is a course that is 3.57 kilometers in total and has twelve turns. This course excludes most of the twists and has a hairpin bend, for the added safety of the motorcycle riders. The motorcycle course has a runoff at turn number 11, whereas the main courses’ turn number 11 does not feature a runoff, but is a slow turn similar to the Mirabeau hairpin bend of Monaco. In addition to the various courses that are available at the Infineon Raceway, there is also a drag strip that is 400 meters, or a quarter mile, for the NHRA Drag Racing events that are held here.
Races that are currently held at the Infineon Raceway, include the AMA Superbike – Supercuts Superbike Challenge, the Dodge/Save Mart 350 that is part of the Nextel Cup, the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series and the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma that falls under the Indy Racing League.
He has been out of high school for less than a year, and already Graham Rahal has started making a name for himself – in fact, he’s put himself into the racing history books. At just over 19 years of age, Graham Rahal has become the youngest driver to win an Indy-car race.
Graham Rahal has managed to beat former record holder Marco Andretti by just 74 days. Andretti was 19 years, 167 days old when he first broke the record for youngest Indy-car race winner as a rookie on the Infineon road course in Sonoma, California, in 2006. Now, just days ago, at 19 years and 93 days old, Rahal has replaced Andretti as the youngest winner in Indy car history. The new record was set at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix circuit in Florida, during the second race of the season. Yet this achievement definitely didn’t come easy.
The trouble started eight days earlier when his team couldn’t get his car repaired in time for him to race in the season opener. That meant that he had to sit the season opener out. When the race finally started, it was raining and Rahal started ninth. This relatively good position soon meant nothing when he got hit from behind by Will Power and spun out. When he eventually managed to recover he was almost at the back of the pack. In a start that would discourage most drivers, it would seem that Graham Rahal just hunkered down and worked harder at climbing his way to first place.
His first major boost came when he became one of the first drivers in the race to switch from grooved rain tires to slicks as soon as the track started to dry. This pit stop put him second in line for the restart. Ryan Hunter-Reay was in first place but needed to conserve fuel and so Graham Rahal was able to make a good start and get a good lead at the restart. With less that four minutes left to the race, another caution caused yet another restart. Graham Rahal was in the lead but he was constantly dogged by Helio Castroneves, the winner of the previous two St. Petersburg races, and he had to work hard to make sure that Castroneves didn’t overtake him. His hard work paid off and Rahal was able to pull away from Castroneves in the last four laps of the 1.9 mile street course. The race lasted just two hours and in that short time Rahal made history.
Rahal’s father Bobby, himself a three-time season champion, greeted Rahal in the victory lane. They hugged and his father said simply: “Nice job.” When asked about his success in a later interview, Rahal said that the win felt “great” and praised his team for doing an “awesome job”. Way-to-go Graham Rahal!