Motegi: Series race report

PATRICK WINS INDY JAPAN 300 AT TWIN RING MOTEGI MOTEGI, Japan, Sunday, April 20, 2008 - Since exploding into the consciousness of an international audience at the 2005 Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick has faced questions of when she would...

PATRICK WINS INDY JAPAN 300 AT TWIN RING MOTEGI

MOTEGI, Japan, Sunday, April 20, 2008 - Since exploding into the consciousness of an international audience at the 2005 Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick has faced questions of when she would win an IndyCar Series race.

She answered with a flurry of a finish at Twin Ring Motegi, becoming the first female to win a major auto racing event. Patrick, who turned 26 three weeks ago, won in her 50th IndyCar Series start.

"Finally," Patrick said in victory lane. "This is a long time coming. It was a fuel strategy race, but my team called it perfectly for me. I know I was on the same strategy at Helio (Castroneves) and when I passed him for the lead, I couldn't believe it. This is fabulous."

Helio Castroneves, making his 100th IndyCar Series start, finished 5.8594 second behind and Scott Dixon was third. Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dan Wheldon, finished fourth and Tony Kanaan was fifth.

With six laps remaining, Dixon had a 3.6-second lead over Dixon. But the leader had to pit for a splash of fuel on Lap 195. Wheldon and Kanaan had to follow suit on Lap 196. That left the door open for Patrick and Castroneves, whose last pit stop came on Lap 148.

INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Danica Patrick's first IndyCar Series victory. Her previous best finish was second at Detroit in September 2007.

* Patrick is the first female driver to win an Indy Racing League event. She previously shared the record with Sarah Fisher, who finished second at Miami in 2001.

* Helio Castroneves finished second, his third-consecutive top-five finish and second-straight runner-up finish.

* Scott Dixon finished third, his second podium finish of the season.

* Dan Wheldon finished fourth, the first time he finished outside the top-two at Motegi since 2003.

* Ed Carpenter finished sixth, his best finish at Motegi in five starts.

INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Indy Japan 300): "Finally! This is a long time coming. It was a fuel strategy race, but my team called it perfectly for me. I know I was on the same strategy at Helio and when I passed him for the lead, I couldn't believe it. This is fabulous."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Team co-owner, Andretti Green Racing): "I think Danica is such a fantastic person and I'm thrilled for her that the monkey is finally off of her back. We have all believed in her and she proved today that she is a winner. Frankly, I think this is the first of many.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "I'm again part of history. The car was really good in the beginning, then we started picking up a vibration. It looks like we pitted a little bit long. We were having problem in the pits. I'm disappointed with that, With five laps to go, I was saving fuel. When Danica passed me, I realized she was the leader. She did a great job, passed me fair and square and that shows you how competitive our series is.''

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "It's just one of those races where anything you tried, you didn't know exactly what to do. You had people in the back who were pitting and taking fuel under yellows. If we had had a yellow, we would have been stuck back there. But it worked out perfectly for the guys who made it a fuel race. Really frustrating because we had the car to beat, but I guess that's the way it goes."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "It became a fuel mileage race, and we had a really good car. To be quite honest, we have some work to do on our pit stops. It was a good day for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, but not what we wanted."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "The Team 7-Eleven car was good today but we seemed to miss on the strategy. It's pretty frustrating but it is what it is."

-credit: irl

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