Series news and notes 2010-09-16

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines: 1. Sato chose four wheels over two 2. A.J. Foyt Oval Championship Trophy on the line 3. Series title talk 1. Sato chose four wheels over two: Years before Takuma Sato...

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Sato chose four wheels over two
2. A.J. Foyt Oval Championship Trophy on the line
3. Series title talk

1. Sato chose four wheels over two: Years before Takuma Sato climbed into a race car for the first time he was a champion racer on two wheels. "I was so keen on motor racing when I was a boy, but you need to be in the right environment to do motor racing," said Sato, who will compete in the No. 5 Lotus entry for KV Racing Technology in this weekend's Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. "You can't simply decide to do it like football or track and field. My parents didn't have any idea about racing, so I never had any opportunity to do any racing until I was 19 years old.

"I was really crazy about motor racing, particularly after seeing Suzuka and the Japanese Grand Prix in 1987 when I was 10 years old. I just stood there. It was a big shock to me. Since then, I was a big fan of F1 and motor racing."

But following in the footsteps of Aguri Suzuki in Formula One was a foreign proposition. He eventually discovered cycling -- mountain biking and track racing are popular in Japan -- as a sense of freedom.

"I had a push bike when I was 10 years old," Sato said. "I just loved riding the bike; not competitively but just generally. When I was 16 years old, I found a professional cycling shop in Tokyo. It's pure racing stuff. I started with the mountain bike, which was a present from my parents when I got into high school. I joined a weekend club of students, amateur riders and semi-professionals that toured and trained and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I started road racing and track racing in high school days, and that's when I really got into the competition." Sato progressed to win the all-Japan high school and all-university competition, and could have pointed to the Olympic Games. But his competitive desire and heart remained on another track.

"At that time I was thinking 'Is this what I wanted?' The answer I knew was 'No,' '' he said. "It was motor racing. When you're 19 years old and have never done this stuff and don't have big financial support, you're stuck. I was looking at a motor racing magazine and it was featuring the Suzuka motor racing school, and it sounded perfect to me. You had to get in before you were 20.

"Once you got in, you used the Suzuka circuit and a junior formula car. When you're good there, you have a scholarship and move up to the next level. I was 19 when I read the magazine and said, 'This is my last chance.' That's how I started.

"When I started racing, people couldn't believe it because you have to start from 4 or 5 years old. It would be nice, but I didn't have that chance. Unless you try, you never know. That's why I keep pushing. Now I have a great opportunity here in IndyCar, and it's a whole new world again."

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2. A.J. Foyt Oval Championship Trophy on the line: Dario Franchitti takes a 27-point lead over Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon into the Indy Japan 300 -- the final race to determine the inaugural A.J. Foyt Oval Championship Trophy winner.

The award honoree -- like the Mario Andretti Road Course Champion -- was selected by fan vote on indycar.com. Team Penske's Will Power received the road/street course trophy from Andretti last month at Infineon Raceway.

Dixon won the race last year, and Franchitti was 1.4 seconds behind in second. Franchitti has accumulated 228 points from victories at Indianapolis and Chicagoland plus top-five finishes at Kansas, Texas and Kentucky. Dixon won at Kansas and had top-10 finishes at the other five ovals.

Dixon and Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan are the only drivers to complete all 1,278 laps on ovals this season. Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon is three shy. The oval title-holder will be decided in Japan, but will be formally presented the trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks. Foyt did not make the trip to Japan for the second year in a row.

A.J. Foyt Racing team director Larry Foyt will be the race strategist for the No. 14 ABC Supply car driven by Vitor Meira.

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3. Series title talk: Will Power leads Dario Franchitti by 17 points in the overall championship, with Dixon and Helio Castroneves also still eligible. In addition to his victory last year, Dixon has three top-five finishes at Twin Ring Motegi. Castroneves won in 2006 and has three pole starts in seven years. Franchitti has the '09 runner-up spot and finished third in 2007. Power will make his debut at the 1.5-mile, egg-shaped track.

This is the eighth IZOD IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi. The winner has won the championship once (Dan Wheldon in 2005).

In 13 seasons, no driver has won the 16th race of the season and gone on to win the title.

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The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 11 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS on Sept. 18. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes with the Miami 100 on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Takuma Sato , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Larry Foyt , Dan Wheldon , Mario Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Aguri Suzuki , Will Power , A.J. Foyt , Vitor Meira
Teams Andretti Autosport , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology