WET TRACK FORCES POSTPONEMENT OF INDY JAPAN 300
MOTEGI Japan, Saturday, April 19, 2008 - Hideki Mutoh addressed the fans at Twin Ring Motegi, thanking them for their patience and inviting them to return the next morning for the Indy Japan 300.
The Andretti Green Racing driver was as disappointed as the crowd that persistent "weepers" in Turn 4 of the 1.5-mile oval forced postponement of the sixth annual race to 11 a.m. (JST) -- 10 p.m. (ET) April 19 with the live broadcast on ESPN Classic. A re-airing of the 200-lap race is scheduled for 11 a.m. (ET) April 20 on ESPN2.
The weepers - water emanating through the asphalt surface from the soaked ground underneath - were created by about 2.3 inches of rain that fell at the track over the previous 30 hours. Rain stopped early in the morning, and track workers with Delphi Safety Team personnel worked for more than seven hours in an attempt to stem the flow from multiple locations.
Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions of the sanctioning Indy Racing League and the race's chief steward, twice consulted drivers regarding the safety of the racing surface before asking Mutoh and Roger Yasukawa to address the crowd.
"We never got a situation where the racetrack was presentable and safe to race on," Barnhart said. "The drivers would not have been comfortable and been in a position to where we could have done anything today. We had about three spots we were working on: the acceleration lane coming out of the pits in Turn 2, the deceleration lane going into the pits in (Turn) 3 and then a large section of the racetrack in Turn 4."
Track officials continued to work on the affected areas throughout the afternoon and into the evening, sucking water out of holes drilled into the asphalt to relieve pressure. The forecast is for improving weather conditions, and the sanctioning body built in the rain date into its schedule.
Rain had canceled qualifications for the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award, which gave Helio Castroneves the pole start based on entrant points. It's the third year in a row that he'll start from the pole in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Under similar weather circumstances in '06, Castroneves was awarded the pole based on entrant points. He led 184 laps en route to the 6.3-second victory over Dan Wheldon.
Scott Dixon, who won the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, also will start on Row 1. Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti will share Row 2, while Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick will be on Row 3.
Carpenter will be joined on Row 4 by teammate A.J. Foyt IV. Hideki Mutoh and Ryan Hunter-Reay, making their first IndyCar Series starts at Twin Ring Motegi, will be on the fifth row. Kanaan topped the full day of practice with a quick lap of 27.2453 seconds (200.842 mph).
The only previous postponement in Twin Ring Motegi's 10-year history took place in 2000, when showers forced the race to run on Sunday, an event won by Michael Andretti.
RACE DAY POSTPONEMENT NOTEBOOK:
The IndyCar Series and Honda Motor Co. announced that the new Honda FCX Clarity would lead the field to the green flag for the Indy Japan 300.
The decision to feature the zero-emission fuel cell vehicle is part of the IndyCar Series' leadership in the greening of motorsports. The IndyCar Series is the first and only major racing series in the world to run exclusively on a renewable fuel, using 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in all of its cars. Scheduled for release in the United States this summer and in Japan in the fall, the FCX Clarity runs on hydrogen and emits no carbon dioxide or other environmentally harmful emissions. The Clarity emits only water and is considered to be on the cutting edge of environmentally responsible vehicle design.
The FCX Clarity is powered by the highly-compact, efficient and powerful Honda V Flow fuel stack. Boasting a low-slung, dynamic and sophisticated appearance made possible by the innovative layout of the fuel cell power plant, the FCX Clarity offers superior design and driving performance as well as environmental responsibility.
TERRY ANGSTADT (President of the Commercial Division for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series): "The FCX Clarity is just the latest example of why Honda continues to be such a great partner for the IndyCar Series. They share many of our brand attributes, including innovation, technology and our effort to go green and be better stewards of our environment. We're honored to see Honda unveil this cutting edge vehicle at one of our races and look forward to working with them in the future to continue spreading the greening message to race fans and consumers worldwide."
Growing up, there was no race driver Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves looked up to more than Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna.
The two IndyCar Series drivers and the late Brazilian champion are now linked as part of display in the Honda Collection Hall at Twin Ring Motegi, which includes helmets, firesuits and photos of the drivers and race cars driven by Senna and Kanaan.
Castroneves and Kanaan each got an opportunity to sit in the McLaren MP4/5 chassis that Senna drove in 1989.
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Senna was my hero. It meant a lot to me (to be included)," Kanaan said. "A lot of people don't realize how much of a hero he was to us Brazilians. I'd have to say he was my ultimate hero and the guy I always looked for when I was growing up. It was a very emotional time and I was very honored to be associated with him. (About sitting in the car): "I was going back in time thinking about how well he did and how well he fit in the car and how good he was. It was a very emotional moment."
Evidently, Hideki Mutoh can go back to his old school. The Andretti Green Racing rookie was swarmed by youngsters when he visited Toyomi Elementary School on April 10. He brought a present, too. Mutoh will wear a helmet with a combination of three children's designs in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. Part of the helmet carries a cartoon image of Mutoh on one side, and a fish, representing the Mutoh family's business, on the other. The Chinese characters on the chin means "Victory."
A.J. Foyt Racing's Darren Manning won six consecutive races on the way to claiming the All Japan F-3 championship in 1999. "I love the people and I love the food," he said. "I usually come back here at least once a year to race something."
Panther crew chief Dan Miller did not make the trip to Japan because of a herniated disc in his lower back. Miller, a three-year veteran of the team, relinquished his duties as an outside front tire changer.
To compensate, Panther moved Doug Barnes to outside front tire changer and Paul Sheehan - who changed a tired on Kosuke Matsuura's No. 55 entry last season - will return to over-the-wall duties on the inside front tire for Meira. Miller is expected to return in time for next weekend's race at Kansas Speedway.
Tomas Scheckter will see his first track action of the year April 22 during a refresher day at Kansas Speedway in the Luczo Dragon Racing car. He's entered in the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile oval next weekend.
Scheckter, who competed for Vision Racing the past two seasons, will compete in three events (at Kansas, Indianapolis and Infineon) for the Luczo Dragon Racing team co-owned by Jay Penske and Steve Luczo. John Cummiskey is the team manager and Ray Leto of Sam Schmidt Motorsports is the race engineer.
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 12 Luczo Dragon Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Kansas should be a warm-up for us, see how everybody works together, see stuff that we need to work on, make sure we're properly prepared for Indy," he said. "The test is important for me as well. I haven't been in a car for awhile. I need to get out there and drive as much as I can. Part of it is just me driving and part of it is tuning the car and testing some of the parts that we've come up with. I might have to come to the reality that maybe we go out there and struggle to be 15th. That just might be it. I've got to not let that get to me and carry on working hard with the team. Again, think more of the future and not, ‘OK, this is where it's at.'''
RACE POSTPONEMENT QUOTES:
BRIAN BARNHART (President, Indy Racing League Competition and Operation Division): "We never got a situation where the racetrack was presentable and safe to race on. The drivers would not have been comfortable and been in a position to where we could have done anything today." (About the problem areas): "We had about three spots we were working on: The acceleration lane coming out of the pits in Turn 2, the deceleration lane going into the pits in (Turn) 3, and then a large section of the racetrack in Turn 4 had significant water seeping up through the racetrack." (What can be done overnight to fix the issue?): "We're gong to continue work the area in Turn 4 all afternoon and into the evening hours. We're going to drill more holes and try to relieve more pressure and we're going to try to suck more water out of the holes when we create those areas to relieve the pressure. Hopefully, we won' t get much rain. Right now, it's a steady drizzle, but yesterday, I think we got two-three inches of rain, which has created the situation we're in now. We'll just keep working on it as long as we can and get on it first thing in the morning. The forecast is for good weather tomorrow and that can be a little bit of a double-edged sword too. The sunshine and the heat can bring more water out and expand the water and bring it to the top. We'll just deal with it the best we can."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Unfortunately, we got so much rain that there was nothing they could do about it. IndyCar (Series) worked so hard with the track workers for a long time, but all the water made it unsafe. Brian Barnhart and the league cares about its drivers and equipment, and I don't think it was safe to start the race so we called it a day."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "I just feel sorry for all of the fans, both in the stands and at home staying up late to watch this on TV. The League and the track officials did all that they could to try and fix the track, but there was just so much water out there. You just can't go out and race on an oval with conditions like that, so they made the right decision not to race. It's a shame we couldn't get this race in today, especially because I thought we had a great racecar and I thought we go out and get a good result, so I hope that we at least get to run tomorrow."
SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
11:06 a.m. Indy Japan 300 (200 laps/300 miles)
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a unique weekend - two races on two continents - the Indy Japan 300 on April 19 at Twin Ring Motegi and the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 20 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. Points will be awarded for both races with IndyCar Series drivers participating in Japan and Champ Car World Series competitors in Long Beach. The Motegi race will be telecast in High Definition at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2 on April 18 and re-aired at 3 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, April 18 at 11:30 p.m. (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The Long Beach race will air on April 20 at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN2. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 27 with the Kansas Lottery 100 at Kansas Speedway.