DIXON WINS INDY JAPAN 300, TAKES POINTS LEAD TO MIAMI MOTEGI, Japan (Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009) - Scott Dixon claimed his fifth victory of the season, winning the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi to take over the IndyCar Series points lead with...
DIXON WINS INDY JAPAN 300, TAKES POINTS LEAD TO MIAMI
MOTEGI, Japan (Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009) - Scott Dixon claimed his fifth victory of the season, winning the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi to take over the IndyCar Series points lead with one race remaining.
Dixon, who started from the pole position and led a field-high 149 of 200 laps, took the lead for good on the 164th lap and finished 1.4475 seconds ahead of Target Chip Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti. Graham Rahal finished third, while Mario Moraes, who started on the front row for the first time in his 30-plus races, overcame an early pit miscue to wind up fifth - his third consecutive top five. Danica Patrick, who won at Twin Ring Motegi last year, finished sixth.
Ryan Briscoe, who entered the race as the points leader, saw his chances winning the race and all but clinch the series championship dwindle after he made a mistake after a pit stop on Lap 106. As the No. 6 Team Penske car exited pit lane, Briscoe swerved as he lit up the tires, brushed the inside retaining wall and ran over a cone at the end of the pit lane. After multiple pit stops to repair the damage, he rejoined the race, but had dropped to 19th.
Dixon now leads the standings with 570 points, followed by Franchitti, who has 565. Briscoe, who went into the race with a 25-point lead over Franchitti and a 32-point lead over Dixon, finished 18th and has 562 points.
That's the second-closest 1-3 gap in series history (2003) and the 14th change atop the standings in the 16 races.
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
Brawn GP driver Jenson Button, the current point leader in Formula 1, is attending today's race as a guest of Honda.
Luczo Dragon Racing driver Raphael Matos fell in the hotel overnight and is driving with a sore wrist.
Vision Racing has created a tribute to three crew members that did not make the trip to Japan. Cardboard cutouts of Nathan O'Rourke, Dave Bishop and Dan Rushing have been taped to the team's pit stand.
INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE NOTES:
* This is Scott Dixon's fifth win of the season and the 21st of his IndyCar Series career. His last win came at Mid-Ohio.
* It is the 22nd win of Scott Dixon's open-wheel career tying Tony Bettenhausen, Helio Castroneves, Emerson Fittipaldi and Dario Franchitti for 16th on the list of all-time open-wheel wins.
* This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's ninth win of the season and its 33rd win in the IndyCar Series.
* Dario Franchitti finished second, his 12th top-five finish and eighth podium finish of the season.
* Graham Rahal finished third, his fifth top-five finish of the season.
* Oriol Servia finished fourth, his best finish of the season and matching his career-best finish of fourth at Belle Isle in 2008.
* Mario Moraes finished fifth, his third-straight top-five finish.
INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES
* Scott Dixon takes the point lead with his win at Twin Ring Motegi, the 14th change at the top of the point standings in 16 races.
* The eight points separating first place Scott Dixon from third-place Ryan Briscoe is the second-closest spread between in series history. Only the 2003 season had a closer margin between first and third.
* The five points separating first place Scott Dixon from second-place Dario Franchitti is the fourth-closest spread between first and second. There was a tie in 2003, 1 pt margin in 2006 and 3 points in 2007.
INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, winner Indy Japan 300): "A fantastic day for Team Target. A 1-2. For me it's tremendous. It's a track I've always wanted to win in. I kind of put Motegi just below the Indy 500. It's a very difficult circuit. I remember coming here in the early years and competing for different engine manufacturers and how much emphasis is put on this race. If you have a fast car, you can still get to the front. Put on a good show. Over the moon. Definitely a good day for points and very happy."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Lifelock, finished second): I think we could see the Target cars were very strong. Both cars were very equally matched. Probably my car more so in traffic, and Scott maybe a little bit in clean air. But both cars, whichever one was in front was going to win. I managed to go longer than Scott in the first run. It was looking good. We came out of the pits after the second stop having pulled a pretty substantial gap. I was coming up to lap the No. 2 car, and I went to go on the inside and he came down, so I moved up, he moved up. He kept moving up until I hit a bump and ended up in the marbles. I managed to gather it back up, by which point Scott had a massive run and passed me. It was unfortunate to lose the lead that way, but we've seen that all year from him, to be honest. After that, it's just trying to pass Scott. We tried on the pits, on the restarts. We were so equal today, I needed traffic in front of us to slow Scott so I could get a run on him, and there wasn't any. "
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, finished third): "The McDonald's boys have been working awfully hard this entire time, and we've had the pace and it's nice to get our first podium on a superspeedway and second of the season on an oval. It's such an interesting track and a change from what we're used to with the classic superspeedway shape. The McDonald's boys did a great job in the pits today and we saved a lot of fuel which put us in that position."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 06 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, finished fourth): "It was a very good race. I'm extremely happy for the team to finish just behind Ganassi is very good. I'm very pleased, but obviously, I would have preferred to be on the podium but Graham had a run on me there at the end and he got the best out of it. I'm happy with the performance. I'm happy that the team gave me the opportunity. We had a good four races and definitely gained momentum, and I hope we can continue the momentum next year. I think we can be contenders for the championship if we start together from Day 1. That's what I really hope will happen. I'm happy how things have gone. I want to thank Carl and Bernadette Haas, Mike Lanigan and McDonald's for the opportunity."
MARIO MORAES (No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KVRT, finished fifth): "I am happy for the KV Racing Technology team. They did a great job all weekend. We started second, but I fell in line in third place at the start of the race. Then on the first pit stop we had a problem refueling and had to come back in for more fuel. That put us two laps down. But, the whole team fought back and we got some luck with a yellow flag to get back on the lead lap in fuel sequence and finished fifth. It is our third consecutive top-five finish, so I am happy about that. I am also looking forward to going to Homestead. I think we are going to have a very good car there, so we can finish the season off really strong.
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola, finished sixth): "The No. 7 car was strong all day; unfortunately it just wasn't strong enough to defend my win from last year. We could have had a run on Mario (Moraes) but I got caught in traffic and just wasn't able to gain the position. Overall it was a good day and a solid finish for us."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, finished seventh): "Today wasn't a bad showing for the Venom boys, especially considering our starting position. A better qualifying run obviously would have made our day a lot easier, but we were able to work through some traffic and make the best it. Had that last yellow fallen a couple laps later I think it would have been a much brighter outcome for the #26 car, but you can't depend on yellows."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, finished eighth): "It was really good to be back and running up front again, and obviously from the entire Panther Racing team standpoint I feel everybody did an excellent job. The engineering staff made a big change last night for the race and it was very positive and I could see that it made the car very nice to drive today and certainly when catching lapped traffic I was able to make a lot of time up. Unfortunately it was one of those things for us today; we got caught on the yellow flag. But like I said everybody here has come here and put a lot of effort into this weekend and unfortunately they weren't rewarded. We again showed that we can run with the best."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, finished 10th): "We were shooting for a top-10 finish for Team Penske here in Japan and we got it today. It was very difficult to pass out there but we did the best job we could. The team made some great calls and we had good pit stops. It's a shame that Ryan lost the points lead, but we know we will be strong at Homestead and our goal is to bring home a championship for Team Penske."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished 18th): Yeah, it was pretty frustrating. With the accident leaving the pits, it was a huge opportunity for me to get the race lead. I just gassed it too much leaving my box, and the car spun. I hit the wall. We had to change the front upright. The team did a great job doing it in the time they did, but unfortunately that was our day done pretty much. Just sort of brought the car home without pushing too hard at the end. The good thing is that it's only eight points to Scott. I feel real good going into Homestead. We've been strong on all the one and a halves this year. This track is unique. Ganassi had the upper hand on us this weekend. Homestead, Team Penske I'm confident is going to be the team to beat. Eight points is the difference between first and second. It looks like is it's going to be a pretty tough battle to see who can win the race."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season concludes with the Firestone Indy 300 on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. A one-hour qualifying show will air on VERSUS at 6 p.m. on Oct. 9. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Homestead-Miami 100 on Oct. 9 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast by Live by VERSUS at 6 p.m. (EDT).