With the most recent race for the IICS being the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on August 5th, the series sees an end to its three week break this weekend with the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. The 2012 season will mark the eighth time the IndyCar's have made the trip out to wine country for a race weekend.
Heading into Sonoma, there is a four-way battle for the championship. Will Power leads with 379 total points, just 5 points ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Currently in third with 353 points is Helio Castroneves, followed closely behind by Scott Dixon who has accumulated 351 marks.
Of the four championship contenders, three have seen victory lane in Sonoma. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only contender to not yet earn a victory at the California road course. Hunter Reay, who is coming off a DNF at Mid-Ohio that saw his championship lead disappear, will have his sights set on success this weekend in attempt to gain the lost momentum.
Will Power marks the other end of the spectrum as it relates to momentum. Coming off a second place finish at the Honda Indy 200, Power hopes to maintain his momentum and the championship lead that comes along with it. Also in favor of the Penske driver is the recent history of Sonoma. The last two iterations of the Grand Prix of Sonoma have seen Power go to victory lane, leading a 1-2-3 Penske Racing finish in 2011's race.
Marco Andretti is a driver who is eager to get a win in the closing stages of the 2012 campaign. Having nearly won at Iowa back in June, Andretti's best finish since has been an 8th at Mid-Ohio. Success has been something that has not completely eluded him at Sonoma however, winning the Grand Prix in 2006, his rookie season.
"Yeah, Infineon's awesome. Just the layout of that circuit is phenomenal. 'Elevation' is the word that comes to mind when it comes to Infineon, a lot of ups and downs, and still some good passing zones..." Andretti says to indycar.com
JR Hildebrand, a Californian native from Sausalito, looks forward to returning to his home track.
"It's really cool for me, specifically, to go to Infineon Raceway. That's really where I grew up, it's where I started racing. But even before that I attended an enumerable number of races back when it was Sears Point." Hildebrand states when speaking with indycar.com
The Panther Racing driver will be sporting a San Francisco 49ers livery this weekend as a tribute to one of its founding members and 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh. Hildebrand, who has finished 24th and 23rd in 2010 and 2011 in Sonoma, respectively, still is as excited as always to be going home.
"It's just a really neat race track kind of tucked up in wine country and for me it's a nice place to go home to."
The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma can be seen on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, August 26th at beginning at 4:00 PM.