IRL: Wheldon gets his first win in Motegi

IRL: Wheldon gets his first win in Motegi

Dan Wheldon dominated the Indy Japan 300 mile race at Twin Ring Motegi, providing Honda with its first victory at their home track. Wheldon’s Klein Tools Jim Beam Dallara crossed the finish line 1.1989 seconds ahead of his Andretti Green Racing...

Dan Wheldon dominated the Indy Japan 300 mile race at Twin Ring Motegi, providing Honda with its first victory at their home track. Wheldon’s Klein Tools Jim Beam Dallara crossed the finish line 1.1989 seconds ahead of his Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the Team 7-11 Dallara.

Dan Wheldon.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
At one point, Wheldon, who led 192 of the 200 laps, enjoyed a lead of nearly four seconds over his teammate.

“The race was very, very difficult,” said Wheldon. “I think Honda performed absolutely excellently. I think Andretti Green Racing did an awesome job. You could see me and TK (Tony Kanaan) were very, very dominant.”

Kanaan started on the inside of the second row and quickly passed Greg Ray for second at the first turn. Kanaan made an early bid for the lead, but found that Wheldon’s car was the class of the field. Wheldon set the fastest lap of the race on lap 4 at a speed of 201.165 mph.

“We lost a gurney,” Kanaan said. “We have a gurney on the undertray, and I lost the right-rear gurney. I knew right there that I wouldn’t be able to win, so I told the guys, ‘Let’s do our best.’”

Helio Castroneves finished third in the Marlboro Team Penske Dallara after holding off late race challenge from Darren Manning. After clearing the lapped car of Dario Franchitti, Manning had two laps to drive his Target Ganassi Racing around a fading Castroneves.

Manning finished fourth, 0.1774 seconds behind Castroneves. “We had such a good car today, and I really felt like I could do everything I needed to do out there. I certainly did a lot of passing out there. I think I may have passed the entire field twice. I am, however, kicking myself for some of the mistakes that cost us some valuable positions. I ran wide a couple of times coming out of turn 4 and I overshot my box on that last stop quite a bit, and that certainly cost me the chance to come out with the leaders.

“I’ve been taking the first few races a little more conservatively than I usually would, but now I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with the car, and I believe I’m ready to be more aggressive. I’m very much looking forward now to the Indianapolis 500 and the month of May.”

Manning’s Target Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon passed Buddy Rice late in the race to finish fifth. Rice started fifth in the Pioneer Argent Mortgage G Force and ran strong until suffering a mechanical problem at the first pit stop. “We were down on horsepower after that. I tried to hold off Dixon at the end for fifth but it just wasn’t there. It’s a little disappointing because the car felt so good in the early stages.”

Despite passing Rice for fifth, Dixon was disappointed in his run. “I don’t feel like I had a very good day, even though the result is a few good points in the bank. We had lots of difficulties today, and I wasn’t very happy with the car. Exiting turn four was a problem and my brakes gave me some grief after the second to last pit stop. We also didn’t have a very good last pit stop either.”

Dario Franchitti finished seventh, one lap down to the leaders. Kosuke Matsuura finished eighth, followed by Scott Sharp and Tora Tagaki in tenth.

After three racesDan Wheldon takes the lead in the point standings with his Andretti Green Racing teammate Kanaan second. The IndyCar Series heads to Indianapolis for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Greg Ray , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jim Beam
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing