Barron Brings Chevy Home in 12th at Twin Ring Motegi MOTEGI, Japan, April 17, 2004 - The rising sun didn't shine on Team Chevrolet this weekend during the IRL IndyCar Series' annual visit to Japan. Alex Barron was the top Chevy finisher in the...
Barron Brings Chevy Home in 12th at Twin Ring Motegi
MOTEGI, Japan, April 17, 2004 - The rising sun didn't shine on Team Chevrolet this weekend during the IRL IndyCar Series' annual visit to Japan. Alex Barron was the top Chevy finisher in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi, bringing Red Bull Cheever Racing's Dallara home in the 12th spot. Tomas Scheckter finished 13th after the Pennzoil Panther Racing crew repaired his car's gearbox during an extended pit stop. Rookie Mark Taylor appeared to be headed toward a top-five finish before he was pushed into the Turn 1 wall on the 168th lap. Chevy drivers Robbie Buhl and Ed Carpenter both retired with handling problems after completing 38 of 200 laps.
Dan Wheldon won the race in Andretti Green Racing's Honda Dallara by a margin of 1.445 seconds over his teammate Tony Kanaan.
"This was a pretty long weekend for us," said Barron. "We finished and got decent points, and overall we're happy with that. But we want to run at the front, so that's why we're disappointed with the result."
The Indy Japan 300 was the final race with 3.5-liter engines. A new 3.0-liter engine specification will be introduced at the next event, the prestigious Indianapolis 500.
"Now with the changes coming for Indy, we need to really work hard," Barron noted. "We'll try to get a fresh start."
IRL rookie Mark Taylor turned heads as he turned fast laps in his first visit to this challenging 1.5-mile circuit. After starting 14th, the Englishman ran as high as fourth before being forced to the outside by Tora Takagi, ending his day prematurely.
"He had a quicker car at the time and we were struggling a bit with the wind," Taylor reported. "We were still doing decent lap times. He just went down the inside of me, and at that point of the day you just can't go side-by-side into that corner. But that's the way racing is; he had the speed to go for it, and he went for it. It's one of those racing incidents, but very disappointing because we had a great run going."
Taylor showed the speed and consistency of a veteran in only his third IRL IndyCar Series start. The ace Panther Racing crew gained four positions for Taylor on his second pit stop, moving him from ninth to fifth.
"It's so difficult to overtake here and with the wind moving the car around, you're relying on your pit crew to do a great job, which they did today," Taylor said. "We were trying to get as much track time as possible and it worked well for us. I was gaining confidence and so we got a good qualifying position. Then we were able to continue that momentum into the race as well."
With its wide-open first and second turns and tight third and fourth corners, the egg-shaped 1.5-mile Motegi track places a premium on handling. Robbie Buhl and Ed Carpenter both retired from the race after 38 laps, citing handling issues.
"I'm extremely disappointed," said Carpenter. "This is nowhere near where I wanted to finish before Indy. We had really poor handling from the start of the race and couldn't fix it. It wasn't worth damaging a race car or injuring myself or anyone else."
Buhl echoed Carpenter's sentiments: "The car wasn't handling well," he reported. "We made some changes, but it didn't solve the handling issue. This is a tough track. You have a very narrow window here, and we didn't want to take risks."
The next event on the IRL calendar is the Indianapolis 500, the crown jewel of the IndyCar Series. Chevrolet teams will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program and Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 26-28. The track will open for practice on May 9, and the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on May 30. The race will be televised live on ABC at noon EDT (11 a.m. local time).