IRL: From Motegi practice to race, Castroneves on top

Helio Castroneves dominated the Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi 1.5-mile oval after leading all but 16 of the 200 laps. With qualifying canceled due to rain on Friday, the grid was set by entrant points, putting Castroneves on the pole for...

Helio Castroneves dominated the Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi 1.5-mile oval after leading all but 16 of the 200 laps. With qualifying canceled due to rain on Friday, the grid was set by entrant points, putting Castroneves on the pole for the start of the race. Castroneves, who was favored to win after setting the fastest lap on both practice days, crossed the finish line 6.3851 seconds ahead of second place finisher Dan Wheldon.

"We were fast from the very start this week, which is good because there wasn't a lot of practice time" said Castroneves. "Today was perfect, and the car was perfect too. I said yesterday that I wanted to finish where we started, and I don't think it was ever in question."

Wheldon and his Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon kept pressure on Castroneves during early portions of the race. Castroneves led the first 24 tours of the circuit before Wheldon managed to edge into the lead. "At some points of the race I was very quick and just tailed off at other points," said Wheldon. "It's a reasonable result from a points standpoint. I just didn't have enough for Helio."

Wheldon held the point for five laps when a suspension part on Tomas Enge's car broke and he collected Ed Carpenter, sending both drivers into the SAFER Barrier. Neither driver was injured.

"Going down the backstretch I saw something break on Enge's car," said Carpenter. "He was throwing sparks and headed towards pit lane. I knew it, I just knew he was going to come back up on the track, so I headed into turn three and he came right up in front of me."

The caution period sent the field to the pits where Castroneves resumed the lead. Once back into the lead on lap 30, he only relinquished the lead during regularly scheduled green flag pit stops.

Despite leading five laps, Scott Dixon finished ninth, the first of four drivers who crossed the line one lap down. Dixon entered the pits with the lead on lap 149 for his final pit stop when he stalled the car twice due to a clutch problem. "I'm pretty disappointed because we had such a good run going," said Dixon. "The car was just fantastic. On that last stop, I lost the clutch, stalled it and fell back too many spots to make a decent comeback."

Tony Kanaan fought back to finish third after an unscheduled pit stop dropped the Brazilian out of the top five on lap 126. Kanaan, who was scored as leading one lap during green flag pit stops, made four pit stops while Castroneves only made three. "We had a flat tire," Kanaan reported. "I think I was going to be competitive, but we got set back when we got the flat tire, and I had to pit earlier."

Castroneves' teammate Sam Hornish finished fourth. Hornish had a strong car early in the race but faded before the midpoint of the race. The team improved the car during pit stops, allowing Hornish to finish 0.748 seconds ahead of Buddy Rice.

Bryan Herta finished sixth followed by Kosuke Matsuura and Danica Patrick in 8th, the last car on the lead lap.

Dario Franchitti started tenth and quickly moved into the top five, where he ran for most of the race. During his final pit stop on lap 145, Franchitti was approaching his pitbox when a bump in the pit lane sent the car abruptly to the left, striking Andretti Green Racing crewman Steve Price. Price was taken to Tokyo University Hospital for x-rays of his leg. Further updates on Price will be posted when information is available.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Ed Carpenter , Sam Hornis
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing