first_imgThere is little left to be determined when the Indy Racing League concludes its season at California Speedway in Fontana on Sunday. Dan Wheldon has already wrapped up the IRL championship. Danica Patrick has been named rookie of the year. Honda is the manufacturers’ champion. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Valencia’s Bryan Herta, driver of the No. 7 Honda-powered entry for Andretti Green Racing, can only approach the race one way: as a last chance to add to his win total. Herta won the IRL race at Michigan International Speedway in July, the second of his IRL career, and added three poles this year. Pretty impressive numbers for any driver. But he is already looking toward next season. “When the No. 7 car was a brand-new team, the goals last year were to try to become competitive,” said Herta, a graduate of Hart High of Newhall. “This year, we won some poles and a race, had some fast laps. That was a good step for us. “Now there are no excuses. I want to go after a championship next year.” And why not? The Andretti Green Racing team has produced the past two IRL champions. Tony Kanaan won the first championship for Andretti Green in 2004, completing every lap of every race, a feat that has never been duplicated. Wheldon followed Kanaan with an IRL title this year, becoming the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and the series championship in the same season. He also has a series-tying record six wins and has a chance to set the new mark if he can win Sunday’s race. Herta said he has benefited from his teammates’ success. “The team’s giving us all the tools we need,” Herta said. “Now with my guys after two years of working together, there are no excuses.” There could be one little problem, though. Herta’s contract with Andretti Green Racing expires at the conclusion of the season. But Herta expects he will return to the four-car Andretti Green Racing team in 2006. For how long is another matter. “I’m not planning on going anywhere,” Herta said. “I’m very happy with the team and expect to be back next year.” Herta enters the last race of the season eighth in points, nine points out of seventh. His win at Michigan could be beneficial for the Fontana race. The tracks are similar in shape and size, which will give Herta’s team a good starting point to prepare his car for the race. “Obviously we have a great set-up for a Michigan-like track,” said Herta’s team manager George Klotz. “The XM Satellite Radio team would like to move up a few spots in the championship, and a race win would be a great way to finish the season on a strong note.” Qualifying for the Toyota Indy 400 will begin at 3 p.m. today at California Speedway. The race is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Adrian Fernandez won the IRL race at California Speedway last year. He has two cars entered in the race, driven by Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura, but Fernandez will not be racing. Fernandez is in North Carolina driving for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Busch Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. is a two-time winner at California Speedway. He won the 2002 and 2003 races at the Fontana track driving for Panther Racing. Hornish set the race record in 2003, becoming the first driver to win a race and average more than 200 mph for the race. He finished the race with an average speed of 207.151 mph. Tim Haddock, (818) 713-3715 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img