Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Japanese race takes on new role
2. Charity tournament returns to Brickyard Crossing
3. Hinchcliffe gives back to Canadian racing
1. Japanese race takes on new role: Twin Ring Motegi is unlike any track the IndyCar Series has visited this year, which will provide a fitting battleground for the championship contenders.
Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske has a 25-point lead over Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti while his teammate Scott Dixon is third, 33 points back.
"It is a tough place, it's demanding," Dixon said. "You still have the main guys running up there. The race car goes off there really bad at some points throughout the race. That is the challenging part."
The 1.5-mile oval features frontstraights each measuring 1,969 feet and 80-feet wide. The frontstretch is banked at 1.7 degrees with the backstretch at 5 degrees. The turns are 10 degrees in banking.
"It is definitely one of the toughest tracks we go to," Dixon said. "It's funny because it is a 1½-mile oval but it is shaped like an egg and very different. Turns 3 and 4 are very difficult but Turns 1 and 2 are so easy and wide open you get a tow going into Turn 3.
"It's completely different than any track we go to. You have half the downforce you would have at Milwaukee or Phoenix. It's really on the edge. There is a big bump going into Turn 3. I think you need to have a lot of confidence on that track. It's a tough track and if you shake your confidence at all going in there it takes a lot of commitment going into Turns 3 and 4. You have to stay committed and some years we go there we are running wide open over 200 miles an hour, which is pretty crazy."
The challenging circuit will reward the driver, team and strategy because all will be equally important.
"Motegi always puts on great shows so I'm looking forward to that," said Franchitti, the 2007 series champion. "All three guys in the championship will be good there in addition to six or seven other people. It's open season really. The different turns offer a challenge to set up the car but it also makes great racing.
"I think it's cool. The Japanese fans are mad about their racing so the fact we get to go there and it is part of the championship chase, it's good for them and for us."
The Indy Japan 300 was moved this year from April to September, which will provide a different weather variable. Also, nine drivers are expected to make their debut on the racetrack.
"Those guys are having the battle. I'm not in the mix so I can do everything I can to help (Briscoe) out and get him the title," said three-time pole sitter Helio Castroneves, who won the race in 2006. "For the Ganassi boys, they are battling each other for the title. If that becomes an issue, it would be a good issue for us."
2. Charity tournament returns to Brickyard Crossing: The 19th Phil Casey Indy Racing Golf Tournament will be held Sept. 28 at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Pediatric Diabetes Center at Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, Calif., and Target House at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Last year, the tournament raised more than $22,000 and has raised more than 300,000 since its inception in 1990.
"I really want to thank the racers over the years for supporting this event," said Casey, consultant to the Indy Racing League. "The early years proved to be a struggle just to break even, but now with enthusiastic support from the racing community, we are starting to see great results."
Casey organized the golf tournament after his granddaughter, Jennifer Burkhart, received treatment and education about how to manage the disease at the Pediatric Diabetes Center at Valley Children's Hospital. Casey designates his half of the proceeds to the hospital each year.
"I watched my granddaughter struggle with diabetes and I wanted to help other kids with the disease," Casey said.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi will serve as Casey's co-host this year and selected Target House as the organization to receive his share of the money raised.
Target House provides almost 100 free, fully equipped apartments for families and patients receiving long-term treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. But it's more than a place to stay. Target House is a home away from home for families facing medical challenges.
The tournament - two weeks before the season-closing Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway - kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with registration and a continental breakfast. Tee time is 10 a.m. The fee is $500 per team, with lunch and the presentation of awards and door prizes after the round. Deadline is Sept. 21.
3. Hinchcliffe gives back to Canadian racing: One of Canada's up-and-coming racing stars James Hinchcliffe has unveiled a program that will help develop his home country's next generation of racers.
Hinchcliffe, who competes in Firestone Indy Lights with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, will select eight go-karters who will participate in a private running of the Bridgestone Racing Academy's "Thrill of a Lifetime 3+" racing school at the Mosport Racing Academy on Sept. 15.
Hinchcliffe, along with Brett Goodman of the Bridgestone Racing Academy and Tony Ventresca of Autosports Media Group will judge the drivers' on-track performance, including track control, respect and speed. Hinchcliffe will also monitor the drivers' off-track presentation.
"Not only is this shootout going to test their on-track ability," Hinchcliffe said. "But some of the other judging criteria will introduce some of them the pressures of the off-track side of racing, which is so important in the future when dealing with sponsors or media."
Following the completion of the one-day Bridgestone Racing School, the panel will select one driver to participate in a fully paid, three-day "Wheel to Wheel" race licensing course at the Bridgestone Racing Academy during the 2010 season. The prize is the same course Hinchcliffe took when he got his racing license and is something he feels many Canadian karters deserve.
"Canada has one of the best karting communities in the world and that's why we produce a high number of top-class racing drivers for the size of our population. I spent many years running karts all over Canada and those are some of my favorite memories from racing," he said. "The 'Hinchtown.com Canadian Karting Award' is just a way for me to give something back to the community that really sparked my passion for racing."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Sept. 19 with the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 18 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 Sept. 18. 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).