Le Mans Show 

From here to Infineon


Previously, kids trying to emulate their sports heroes would perfect their batting stroke for hours until they developed blisters, or throw footballs through an old tire hanging from a tree, just like in those Viagra knockoff commercials. But with the curious booming popularity of NASCAR, it's easy to imagine today's kids, swaddled in ball caps and jumpsuits festooned with more logos than the Sunday paper, asking dad to teach them how to make a left-handed turn in the family SUV. In some sections of the country, speed racers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are as familiar as Barry Bonds and the phrase "Lock the doors, the Raiders game just let out" are in the Bay Area. And while NeckCar, er, NASCAR is still a white-male, southern-fried sport, its popularity is boiling over like a broken radiator all across the US of A, including right here at home. Infineon Raceway of Sonoma -- that's Sears Point, for those of you who missed the last issue of Corporate Naming Rights Digest -- has become a hot spot on the auto-racing tour, attracting top drivers and oodles of fans. This weekend, the venerable track celebrates auto racing's vive la différence when the oval circuit's Euro cousin, Grand Prix, comes to NorCal for the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma American Le Mans Series, Friday through Sunday.

The event is perfect for car buffs who prefer to see high-performance vehicles do more than just drive in circles. The twelve-turn event features an international cast of top Le Mans-style drivers, including Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell, Oliver Gavin, and Olivier Beretta. But the real attraction here is auto racing's current fan fave and rumble-seat hottie, Earnhardt Jr. Though a long shot to win -- his game is the oval track -- Junior has parlayed his lineage and cocksure swagger into superstar status as a real drawing card. Just be sure to bring earplugs to muffle the roaring engines and those screeching love cries whenever Junior pops the hood or revs his engine. InfineonRaceway.com -- A.J. Hayes

SAT 7/17


Rapid Transit

The San Jose Earthquakes have traditionally been slow starters but strong finishers. So don't despair if the two-time Major League Soccer Cup winners are now sitting last in the MLS Western Conference table, behind Los Angeles and Kansas City -- they have time to gain ground. And Saturday afternoon's game (1 p.m.) against the last-place Colorado Rapids could be just the tonic that Landon Donovan, Dwayne De Rosario, Richard Mulrooney, Brian Ching, and their teammates need during the midseason doldrums. The Quakes are always tough at home. Get tough yourself and catch some world-class footie at San Jose's Spartan Stadium. Visit SanJose.Earthquakes.mlsnet.com/MLS/sje/ for up-to-the-minute details. -- Kelly Vance


No Stars, Just Players

Tomorrow the A's take the field for the second half of the season, after a conspicuously Oakland-shy All-Star game. With third baseman Eric Chavez and pitcher Tim Hudson returning from the DL, with relief pitcher Octavio "12,000 mph" Dotel firmly in command of the closer role, with shortstop Bobby Crosby quickly becoming one of the best young talents in the league, and with the rejuvenated bullpen of Justin Lehr and Justin Duchscherer hanging strong, the A's are fielding an extremely solid squad for the stretch drive -- better than their teams of the last three years. The Chicago White Sox come to call Thursday through Sunday, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays. Info: Oakland.athletics.mlb.com -- Kelly Vance

MON 7/19

Teed Off

You know the bumper sticker that talks wishfully about schools having all the money they need while the Pentagon has to hold bake sales for weapons? Every time there's something like the West Contra Costa Unified School District "Save Our Sports" Golf Classic, we're reminded that something is seriously out of whack. Public schools can't afford books and teachers; they can't afford athletics. But people keep trying. Monday morning (10 a.m.) at Richmond Country Club (1 Markovich Lane, Richmond), golfers can compete in a tournament for a $250 donation that goes for sports, forensics, and music programs. It's the best round of golf you'll ever play, handicap notwithstanding. To register: www.wccusd.k12.ca.us -- Kelly Vance


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