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NOTES

Patrick likes momentum of top-five finish

August 25, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

SONOMA, Calif. -- Danica Patrick is known more for her prowess on high-speed oval tracks than on twisty road courses, but she was all smiles Sunday at Infineon Raceway.

Patrick started ninth and finished fifth in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County, her best finish on a road course this year in the IndyCar Series.

"I am very proud of my Motorola team," said Patrick, 26, after her fourth start at Infineon.

"We started in the ninth position, and to get a top-five finish at a course that is very difficult to pass at is great," said Patrick, driver of the No. 7 car for Andretti Green Racing.

"We need this momentum going into Belle Isle" in Detroit next Sunday, the season's next-to-last event, she added.

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The same couldn't be said for Patrick's teammate Marco Andretti, whose struggles continued.

Andretti started 10th and finished 14th after seldom being near the leaders.

Infineon Raceway was the site of Andretti's first IndyCar victory, in 2006, but he hasn't won a race since then. He has only six top-five finishes through 15 races this season.

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Enrique Bernoldi finished a distant 21st, but in some ways it was still a victory for the Brazilian.

Bernoldi hurt some ligaments in his left thumb during a spinout in qualifying Saturday, and "my hand was hurting a lot during the race," he said.

"It started after maybe 10 laps," said Bernoldi, who drives for Conquest Racing. "The pain was coming and going. To steer left was really difficult, but I just had to go, to push."

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E.J. Viso finished sixth behind Patrick, one of the Venezuelan's best performances of the season.

The HVM Racing driver started 14th but worked his way to the front and even led nine laps because of pit strategies that temporarily put race winner Helio Castroneves and others behind him.

"We did a great job," Viso said. "We have some room to improve and run against the bigger teams, but today proved that we can compete with them."

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Tim Cindric, team manager for Penske Racing, was asked whether Ryan Briscoe was given any orders before Sunday's race aimed at helping Castroneves overtake Scott Dixon for the IndyCar title.

Cindric, noting Castroneves' fondness for climbing the track fence after winning races, said, "Our team orders have always been the same, don't hit each other. If you do, [you have to] climb the fence with him."

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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