Motegi: Honda Racing race report

Dixon Victory at Motegi Sets Up Championship Shootout A 1-2 finish for Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti Saturday at Twin Ring Motegi, combined with a disastrous incident exiting the pit lane for Team Penske's Ryan ...

Dixon Victory at Motegi Sets Up Championship Shootout

A 1-2 finish for Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti Saturday at Twin Ring Motegi, combined with a disastrous incident exiting the pit lane for Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, set up a championship-deciding season finale for the 2009 IndyCar Series next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

While there was little to separate the Ganassi teammates on the race track, Dixon won the crucial battle in the pits, exiting ahead of Franchitti after two of the three stops each made during the course of the Indy Japan 300, including the crucial final stop on Lap 153. At the finish, Dixon led his teammate by just over 1.4 seconds for a series-leading fifth victory of the season. The win gives Dixon a five-point lead over Franchitti, and an eight-point edge on Briscoe, going the final round of the 17-race championship, scheduled for October 10.

For Briscoe, what started out as a huge break -- running a surprising four laps longer than his rivals during the race's second segment, then pitting just as the yellow flag waved for Mike Conway's crash -- instead became his undoing. Instead of resuming with the lead, Briscoe lost control exiting his pit box, and his Honda Dallara swung left into the wall at Pit-Out, damaging his left-front suspension and leading to a long stop for repairs. He would eventually resume to finish 18th, 15 laps down to the leaders.

The 300-mile contest at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi circuit capped another weekend of reliable performance for the Honda Indy V-8 engine, with 23 drivers and teams recording 10,073.04 miles of practice, qualifying and racing, once again with 100 percent reliability.

Early in the race, second-year IndyCar racer Mario Moraes battled with the leaders. But a troubled first pit stop, when Moraes barely missed his marks in Pit Lane and lost time as his KV Racing team struggled to get him refueled, dropped him from contention for the win. Moraes finished fifth, just behind Newman Haas Lanigan teammates Graham Rahal and Oriol Seriva, who briefly contested third place in the closing laps before Servia ceded the position to Rahal. In another inter-team duel, defending race winner Danica Patrick battled her Andretti Green Racing teammate, Marco Andretti, for sixth place throughout the final third of the race. Dan Wheldon ran as high as third in the middle stages, but lost ground by pitting under green on Lap 151, just before a crash by Ryan Hunter-Reay allowed all other lead-lap cars to pit under the resulting caution. Wheldon would finish seventh as a result, just ahead of Luczo Dragon Racing's Raphael Matos.

The 2009 IndyCar Series now returns to the U.S.A. boasting the second-closest first-though-third battle in series history. The championship-deciding season finale takes place "under the lights" on Saturday night, October 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, his fifth IndyCar Series win of 2009 and 22nd open-wheel racing victory, retakes championship points lead, 14th series lead change in 16 races this year: "That's definitely what we needed today. Dario was very quick early on; we had to add some front wing and change the tire pressures to improve the car at our first pit stop. But those changes really worked, and now we go to Homestead with a real shot at the championship. It's just a tremendous day for Team Target."

Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 2nd: "I think whoever was in front today was the quicker car. Whichever one was in front coming out of the pits had the advantage for that stint. But I have to say thanks to my guys today, they were perfect on all our stops. Wish we could have finished one position higher, but Scott was very quick. It was a great result for the team today, and let's go on to Homestead where, hopefully, either Scott or I will win the championship."

Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "It all comes down to this: three drivers fighting for the title. I like that; I think everyone likes that. This is the way we would have set it up when the season began back in April. Congratulations to Scott, Dario and everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing for an outstanding effort today. And congratulations to all our associates at Honda Performance Development and [technical partner] Ilmor Engineering for another flawless performance. It is particularly gratifying to have the opportunity to demonstrate the same sort of reliability in front of our 'home' crowd that the Honda Indy V-8 has demonstrated throughout the season."

-credit: honda racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Mario Moraes , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dragon Racing