For the second race in a row, both Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars crossed the finish line in the top five. From his tenth place starting position on the Twin Ring Motegi grid, Darren Manning took the checkered flag in fourth place, yet again ...
For the second race in a row, both Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars crossed the finish line in the top five. From his tenth place starting position on the Twin Ring Motegi grid, Darren Manning took the checkered flag in fourth place, yet again improving on the results of his first two IndyCar series races which he had finished sixth (Homestead) and fifth (Phoenix).
"We had such a good car today and I really felt like I could really do everything I needed to out there," said Manning whose points earned for a fourth place finish also move him up into fourth place in the driver championship standings. "I certainly did a lot of passing today. I think I may have passed the entire field at least twice. I am however kicking myself for some of the mistakes that cost us some valuable positions. I ran wide a few times coming out of four and I overshot my box on that last pit stop by quite a bit and that certainly cost me the chance to come out with the leaders. I have been taking the first few races a little more conservatively than I usually would but now I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with the car and I believe I'm now ready to be more aggressive. I'm very much looking forward now to the Indianapolis 500 and the month of May."
Scott Dixon finished just behind his teammate in fifth spot, after starting the race from sixth spot on the grid and sporting a sore left ankle following an accident in the first practice of the race weekend in Japan.
"I don't feel like I had a very good day even though the result at the end of the day is a few good points in the bank," said Dixon who ran the race with slight discomfort from his wrapped left ankle following a hairline fracture of the fibula sustained in practice on Thursday. "We had lots of little difficulties today and I wasn't very happy with the car. Existing turn four was a problem, I didn't have very good straight line speed and my brakes gave me grief after the second to last stop. We didn't have a very good last pit stop either. It hasn't been the easiest race weekend so when you still come away with a fifth place finish, you take the points and look to the next race." Dixon also moves up in the drivers' championship standings from seventh to fifth.
The Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 was won by Dan Wheldon, his first career victory, with his teammate Tony Kanaan finishing second and Helio Castroneves rounding out the top three in a race that boasted just 3 cautions.
"The Target team had a good day but not a great day," said Target team owner Chip Ganassi. "Darren did a good job today and has improved steadily. Scott had more of a struggle and both guys had issues in the pits that cost them some places but we have to be happy about finishing fourth and fifth. The least we can say is that we are already ahead of where we were at this point last year and we can head to Indy on a positive note."
Target Chip Ganassi Racing now returns to their home base in Indianapolis, Indiana to prepare for the 88th Indianapolis 500, starting with an Open Test on April 27-28 at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Throughout the 2004 season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing fans are invited to follow the team's progress on their hunt for a second consecutive championship season with defending champion Scott Dixon and Darren Manning by logging onto their official website at www.target.com/racing for news, features, photos and much more.