Commentary

DNF at Infineon spoils memorable weekend in Wine Country

Sarah Fisher's first race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma's Wine Country left a sour aftertaste, the IndyCar driver writes in her diary.

Updated: August 30, 2007, 1:00 PM ET
By Sarah Fisher | Special to ESPN.com

Infineon Raceway was our stop this past weekend -- one of the three final races for the 2007 IndyCar Series season. The track is 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge (beautiful!) in San Francisco, and serves as the gateway to Sonoma Wine Country (wine tasting!). Not only does the IndyCar Series race here at Infineon, but NASCAR, NHRA and the AMA Superbikes compete here. You might recall the track as Sears Point Raceway, which is what it used to be called (much like the RCA Dome for the Colts changing to Lucas Oil Stadium).

IndyCar started competing at Infineon Raceway in August 2005 when I was trying my hand at NASCAR. So, the 12-turn, 2.26-mile course is 100 percent new to me -- as I've never been here before. The track is the most physically challenging track I've ever been on, with lots of shifting, sharp turns and changes in elevation. It's a challenge both physically and mentally.

Sarah Fisher
As I built confidence, I was able to challenge the car more and brake deeper in the corners and pick up speed.

We arrived on Thursday (Aug. 23), and that night I crew-chiefed a go-kart race that involved all the crew guys from the IndyCar and IndyPro Series teams. My fiancÚ, Andy, and other members of my crew and Buddy Rice's team participated in the little race; it was a lot of fun!

I got onto the track that night in a pace car just to get the lay of the land. I also came in super early on Friday for some more track time -- Dad came on the track with me. Practice started on Friday and really all I was doing was building confidence in the car. Having grown up in the midget/sprint car world on ovals, road courses are completely new to me, but the challenge is exciting.

As I built confidence, I was able to challenge the car more and brake deeper in the corners and pick up speed. Mid-Ohio was the last time I was on a road course, and we were the only team that didn't come test at Infineon Raceway (bummer!).

During practice and over lunch on Friday, we were also shooting a new commercial for American Honda! I'm completely humbled to have been asked to be a part of a national Honda advertising spot. Everything Honda does is first-class and they sent out an amazing crew to capture IndyCar racing at its best. Basically, Honda is putting together a corporate TV spot with several Honda icon "dreams" -- and one of the most important stories is racing (of course, right?).

Racing is an integral part of Honda Dreams, so with that, Honda's involvement in the IndyCar Series is a component of the spot. A camera crew joined us on the track and in the garage area to capture the power and excitement of the IndyCar Series. Honda felt that I represented a great dream for them, and for that, I'm truly honored.

Saturday, we qualified and I spun around in Turn 10. I was basically just trying too hard. As each session went on, I continued to challenge the car that much more. So with that, I was running the car into the corner harder and was on the brakes too long to try and get the car to turn and it just came around on me. I didn't hit anything and got the car going again but my engineer radioed to me, "Go ahead and bring it on around," so we didn't clock in a time and started at the back of the field.

Starting from the back of the field is never fun. Scott Sharp, of Rahal Letterman Racing, started next to us (he also spun during qualifying). The goal for the day was to simply get laps and continue to experience the sensation of turning left and right. But my experience on race day lasted a miserable 28 laps (ugh!). Around Lap 18, I began to have a lot of trouble shifting. Fourth gear just wasn't having it. We came in on Lap 28 to try and fix the problem, and my engineer, Chris Finch, decided we would have to pack it for the day. It was only our second DNF of the season.

I just feel so bad for the guys -- they do a lot here at Dreyer Reinbold (why can't we catch a break?). To put a good car together for me on these road courses, I'm really thankful. Having not had any testing time, I'm just humbled to have the opportunity to come out here and do this. Frustrated? Not really, just annoyed that we couldn't get more laps in on race day.

Monday, we had a deal at Infineon Raceway for some of our current sponsors and some sponsor outreach. It was basically a racing school, and I think everyone had a great time. Racing some Ford Mustangs around the go-kart track (Dennis Reinbold, my team owner, nearly did a 360-degree turn in one of the cars with a potential new sponsor). The weekend ended when we landed in Indy around 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

Wednesday, we were back on the road on our way to the Motor City, Detroit, of course. We have a charity event on Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe, Mich., for Racing for Kids in a district called The Hill. It's basically a street fair where we'll be meeting with children and groups; we're even bringing our show car. Then we have a VIP reception on The Hill that will be hosted by The Hill Association and the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce. Our other team owner, Robbie Buhl, is the honorary chairman of the event. It's a dressy event so I'm sure a new dress will be in order.

I've heard a lot about the Detroit Grand Prix and I'm really excited for the IndyCar Series to make a stop there -- especially with us losing the MIS date for next year. I know Helio Castroneves has tested there and helped advise on some great changes. It's our final road course of the season and I'm not sure that's such a bad thing. Especially because I'm looking forward to going to Chicago.

On to Detroit, my friends, and tune into ABC Sports on Sunday (3:30 p.m.) if you can't make it out to Belle Isle.

-- S

IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher drives the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing No. 5 Dallara/Honda. She is providing a diary to ESPN.com. For more on Sarah, go to www.sarahfisher.com.