IRL: Motegi: Panoz race report

Two podium steps for Panoz at Twin Ring Motegi TWIN RING MOTEGI, April 30, 2005 - Scott Sharp came within four seconds of winning his second Japan Indy 300 this afternoon, racing the ...

Two podium steps for Panoz at Twin Ring Motegi

TWIN RING MOTEGI, April 30, 2005 - Scott Sharp came within four seconds of winning his second Japan Indy 300 this afternoon, racing the #8 Delphi/Fernandez Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone challenger to second place in the Indy Racing League's fourth IndyCar Series contest of the 17-race season.

The veteran, who began the contest in third place stayed with the changing list of leaders in the eight-caution-plagued 200-lap contest and emerged 3.4612 seconds behind repeat victor Dan Wheldon. "What a great day!" Sharp exulted. "All in all we had a really good Panoz car all day long and for me it's just so gratifying. The engineers and guys did a great job today. We made a bunch of changes before the race and it was right on. This is great momentum to carry into Indianapolis."

The race began with a caution and ended under yellow, and it was the Panoz drivers who controlled three of the top five finishing slots.

Behind Sharp, 2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Buddy Rice earned third with his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda from 11th on the grid. "We knew it was going to be a fuel race and we played it out," Rice admitted. "That's why I kept making pit stops late in the race with the yellow flags and it paid off. This finish is good for the team entering Indy," Rice's best of the season.

His Rahal Letterman Racing rookie teammate Danica Patrick in the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda began the contest outside the front row and led 32 laps and completed the full distance in fourth place, a feat performed by only five drivers.

"We had a good Panoz race car today. I'm a little upset because we had to save so much fuel but it paid off," Patrick realized. "It was a challenging race from the standpoint that you can't always drive the car as hard as you would like; you have to have patience too."

Celebrating his 30th birthday, Darren Manning raced aggressively to eighth with his #10 Target Panoz/Toyota, recording his fourth straight top-10 result. "I could go pretty much where I needed to and we got some really good runs on people in the last stint. It was a good day," the Briton reacted.

Kosuke Matsuura earned a ninth place finish in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda. Pitting out of sequence and needing a final splash-and-go, Matsuura was "pushing really hard to get back into a good position. The Panoz was really good, especially on the last two stings and this [result] is very good for the next race - Indianapolis," he grinned.

The Japan Indy 300 is the fourth race of the season and final tunep-up before the 89th Indianapolis 500. The Panoz is the sole American designed and built chassis used in major American open wheel racing.

Panoz drivers have placed their names and faces on the legendary Borg Warner Trophy in the past two editions of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and three of the last five Indy 500s.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Danica Patrick