IRL: Motegi: Honda race report

Brack's late charge falls short at Motegi. The quickest car on the track in the closing green flag laps, Kenny Brack came within just a handful of circuits of giving Honda its first victory at Twin Ring Motegi. But a collision involving Shinji...

Brack's late charge falls short at Motegi.

The quickest car on the track in the closing green flag laps, Kenny Brack came within just a handful of circuits of giving Honda its first victory at Twin Ring Motegi. But a collision involving Shinji Nakano and Jaques Lazier on Lap 194 ended Brack's chances, as the race ended under the caution flag after the scheduled 200 laps.

Starting sixth, Brack moved into the lead for the first time on Lap 24 and held it until fellow Honda-powered driver Tony Kanaan took over for his second stint at the front on Lap 38. Then a puncture led to an early, "out-of-sequence" stop for the Team Rahal driver, and Brack spent the rest of the race making up the lost ground, finally moving into the top five on Lap 142. He passed Al Unser Jr. to grab third place on Lap 190 and moved around Felipe Giaffone for second just as the final caution flag waved.

Prior to Brack's resurgence, Kanaan looked to have a strong shot at scoring Honda's first Motegi victory. The Phoenix race winner took the lead at the start and ran at or near the front for the first two-thirds of the race. But a collision with Scott Dixon on Lap 178 while the pair fought for the lead sent both men hard into the turn three wall. Dixon escaped injury in the crash, but Kanaan was transported to Dokkyo University Hospital for further examination of pain in his left wrist and right leg. Roger Yasukawa was also involved in an early race crash, spinning on a restart and collecting Helio Castroneves, but was uninjured in the incident.

Three other Honda-powered drivers made their 2003 season debuts this weekend. At Andretti Green Racing Dan Wheldon substituted for an injured Dario Franchitti, finishing seventh in just his third IRL start. Franchitti suffered back injuries in a motorcycle crash last week in Scotland.

Nakano, driving for Beck Motorsports, collided with Lazier while the pair fought over 10th place. Former IRL series champion Greg Ray also took part in his first race of the year, and made the largest gain in the entire field, finishing ninth after starting on the last row of the grid.

Honda Fast Facts

* Brack is the fourth Honda-powered driver to finish second in the six-year history of this event. Helio Castroneves finished second for Honda in 2001, Dario Franchitti in 2000 and Gil de Ferran in 1999.

* At least one Honda-powered driver has finished in the top three at Motegi in every CART and IRL event the track has hosted.

Kenny Brack (#15 Pioneer/Miller Lite/Team Rahal Honda) started 6th, finished 5th:

"It was a good race for us, second is better than third. And it was a great result for Team Rahal. They have done a fantastic job with the car. Unfortunately, we picked up a puncture on our second set of tires and had to pit out of sequence. That set us back a little bit. We were able to come back, but we ran out of laps at the end. It's funny, because it's the first time I've ever had a puncture in my entire IndyCar career. I'm pretty confident we could have won the race with more green flag laps at the end, but Scott [Sharp] did a great job, while for us there's always next month and next year."

Michael Andretti (#7 7-Eleven/Andretti Green Racing Honda) started 10th, finished 4th:

"My car had too much downforce today, which hurt us when we were trying to pass other cars. Then I stalled in the pits and lost a lap, which hurt us some more. I think if we hadn't lost that lap it would have been interesting. Tony [Kanaan's] accident was really disappointing. He was doing a great job today and now we are just waiting to get an update on his condition, and hope he has a speedy recovery."

Dan Wheldon (#27 Motorola/Andretti Green Racing Honda) started 5th, finished 7th:

"Today was a great experience for me. I think, for my first race, it didn't go too bad. I certainly need to relay to the engineers how to get a better race car, because I was not expecting the track to change the way it did. But I learned a lot and enjoyed it. Now I have to concentrate on getting ready for the Indianapolis 500."

-honda racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon