JR Hildebrand & Dario Franchitti
JR Hildebrand & Dario Franchitti

The traditional track Media Lunch was held by Sonoma in a San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf area restaurant, to promote the upcoming GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Local driver, J.R. HILDEBRAND/Panther Racing Chevrolet and current IndyCar Champion, DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, were the invited guests. The setting was ideal for a Wednesday afternoon. The restaurant’s view of the San Francisco Bay included all the America’s Cup boats headed out for their afternoon practice, including the Oracle Team USA-Spithill, on which Hildebrand sailed the day before.

The drivers discussed the new track configuration – which they both liked after the large open test last Friday.

Hildebrand said that there was some kerbing in T11 which was removed Friday afternoon which opened up the exit, leaving room for a variety of lines.

Franchitti said passing in the Carousel was for the young and brave.

Although Sonoma is considered Hildebrand’s ‘home track’, JR said now that he’s been living in Indianapolis and only running the circuit once a year as do the other Indy drivers, over time he’s lost his ‘advantage.’

Franchitti admitted, that based on the year he’s had, he was surprised that he was still considered mathematically eligible to win the championship. “Realistically, it’s not going to happen.”

Franchitti will be running his fourth engine this weekend, whereas his teammate, SCOTT DIXON, will be on his sixth. The teams are allowed five engines per season, with penalties for maxing out. Franchitti thought Dixon’s penalty would be a loss of ten grid positions for the next two races. There are only three races remaining in the 2012 schedule. Franchitti had no answer as to why he had four engines and Dixon six. It is a new year with the Honda and Chevrolet engines, and there have been failures in both camps. The 2012 Indianapolis 500 winner pointed out that his Indy 500 winning engine blew up at Iowa.

Hildebrand discussed his car’s special red and gold paint scheme for the weekend, which pays tribute to the San Francisco 49er’s in honor of the Panther’s co-owner – 49’er Coach, JIM HARBAUGH. Hildebrand’s car number, #4, is the same as Harbaugh’s jersey number when he played football.

The race weekend schedule calls for Practice on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, followed by Qualifying Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s race airs live at 1pm local time/4pm ET on NBC Sports Network.