Motegi: Series qualifying report

CASTRONEVES LEADS PENSKE 1-2-3 QUALIFYING SWEEP AT MOTEGI MOTEGI, Japan (Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010) - Helio Castroneves earned his fourth PEAK Performance Pole Award in five years at Twin Ring Motegi, claiming the top spot for the Indy Japan 300,...

CASTRONEVES LEADS PENSKE 1-2-3 QUALIFYING SWEEP AT MOTEGI

MOTEGI, Japan (Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010) - Helio Castroneves earned his fourth PEAK Performance Pole Award in five years at Twin Ring Motegi, claiming the top spot for the Indy Japan 300, while IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Will Power (201.463) will share Row 2 with his nearest rival Dario Franchitti (200.964).

Castroneves recorded a two-lap average of 201.992 mph on the 1.52-mile oval to lead a 1-2-3 sweep for Team Penske. Ryan Briscoe (201.594) also will be on the front row.

Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, and E.J. Viso recorded his best start on an oval this season in eighth. Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon will start ninth.

Takuma Sato, who saw limited track time because of a crash early in the first practice session, led the three drivers with Japanese heritage with a 10th-place starting spot. Hideki Mutoh will start 17th and Roger Yasukawa 21st.

The Indy Japan will also decide the inaugural A.J. Foyt Oval Championship with Castroneves, Franchitti, Kanaan, Wheldon and Scott Dixon still eligible to win the title and its $50,000 bonus.

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

This is the eighth IZOD IndyCar Series event held at Twin Ring Motegi. Scott Dixon is the defending race winner and also won the Peak Performance Pole Award last year. Dixon (2009,) Danica Patrick (2008), Tony Kanaan (2007), Helio Castroneves (2006) and Dan Wheldon (2004-2005) are past winners of the event who are entered in the event.

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KV Racing Technology drivers Takuma Sato, E.J. Viso and Mario Moraes have an extra set of eyes watching them during the Indy Japan 300.

Oriol Servia, who finished fourth in last year's Motegi race with Newman/Haas Racing, is serving as driver consultant for the team.

"I'm very happy to be in Japan. It's a race I always enjoyed coming to," Servia said. "I'm helping KV Racing - the team I drove for in 2008. I had a good result here last year and they thought I could help the team, especially Sato because this is a very important race for him. And I think I can help him.

"I've been in this paddock for 10 years, so hopefully there are things I can see and tell him to do as well as possible."

IZOD IndyCar Series technical information for the Indy Japan 300:

Honda overtake assist

Overtake assist was introduced to the series in August 2009 and will make be used for the second time at Twin Ring Motegi in the Indy Japan 300.

The system employed by Honda Performance Development is an ECU software alteration. It is activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel and provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine. Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout. For the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi

20 uses
15 seconds duration each use
10-second recharge period between uses

Firestone Firehawk tires

Each car receives eight sets (32 tires) of Firehawk tires.

Firestone's tire specification is unique for Twin Ring Motegi. The spec utilizes Firestone Racing's superspeedway (Texas, Kansas, Chicagoland) construction, paired with compounds that provide similar grip and wear levels to the tires used at the Indianapolis 500.

Firestone Racing engineers have determined this to be the best compromise for the 1.5-mile, egg-shaped Twin Ring Motegi track.

Aero package

The rear wing flap angle is a minimum 15 degrees and the rear wing has a minimum 1-inch wicker.

There are no vertical end fence wickers or reverse wickers for Twin Ring Motegi.

Tire ramps, sidepod extensions and brake backing plates are optional.

Dan Wheldon earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory at Twin Ring Motegi in 2004, and returned for a Victory Circle encore in '05. He's finished in the top 10 in all seven races. Wheldon, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car, enters the race with second- and third-place finishes in the past two races in his helmet.

"We've got a lot of momentum going right now within the team from our performance at Chicago and Kentucky, and we feel like we're going to continue that this weekend in Motegi," he said. "It's a great racetrack, and outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway it's probably my favorite oval track on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule. The National Guard boys have been working so hard lately and we feel like we're getting closer and closer to our first trip to Victory Lane together."

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Team owner/driver Sarah Fisher and primary sponsor Dollar General will partner with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization, for the Oct. 2 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Fisher will rebrand the yellow No. 67 car, team equipment and gear in pink for the race weekend. Dollar General will make a $25,000 donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Sarah Fisher Racing and retail partners Maingate and Indianapolis Motor Speedway will collectively donate a portion of the retail sales of all Sarah Fisher Racing co-branded pink merchandise.

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iRacing.com has added Twin Ring Motegi, Suzuka Circuit and Tsukuba Circuit on its global list of racing facilities available to the service's more than 20,000 subscribers. They'll be available next year.

iRacing.com is an Internet-based subscription service that provides motorsports enthusiasts and gamers with a virtual version of auto racing, including cars and tracks, organized and spontaneous racing and a social community.

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A torn right biceps tendon will preclude Ricky Davis, chief mechanic of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car driven by Scott Dixon, from being one of the over-the-wall (outside right front) people for the remainder of the season. Blair Julian will move from the outside rear to the outside-front tire change, while Adam Rovazzini will move from inside rear to outside rear. Andy Snyder will serve as the inside rear tire changer.

***

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* Helio Castroneves won the PEAK Performance Pole Award for the second time in 2010. He also won the pole at Indianapolis. It is his fourth pole at Motegi in his past five races at the track.

* Ryan Briscoe qualified second. His previous best start at Motegi was fourth in 2009.

* Will Power qualified third, extending his streak of consecutive top-five starts to 12.

* Team Penske swept the top-three spots for the second time this season. The team previously started 1-2-3 at Watkins Glen.

* E.J. Viso qualified eighth - his best oval qualifying position of the season.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "It is a great team effort. A 1-2-3 start for Team Penske is awesome. These boys deserve it. They've worked really hard, especially on the ovals. I have to thank the guys at the shop as well. All of the hard work has paid off today. Now we have to make it happen in the race."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified second): "It's really exciting. It's so fast, but it's not an easy track. You really have the wind down there in turn three and four. And today the track improved a lot from practice. The speeds were a lot higher. Helio did an amazing job. He did a one man band on his warm up lap. It was an impressive run. But I sort of knew it from his run that the track was fast, and I really pushed hard out there. Made a little mistake on my first lap with my gears. But really going into the second lap it was exciting to get in the 202's around here. That is really fast on this track. It's just a great event to be in the top three. We as a team have made a lot of changes this year coming to this track. We weren't happy with the performance here last year, and it is a real testament to the engineers that have given us these race cars to come here with. "

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, qualified third): "I'm very happy about the (team's) starting positions. We hope we can execute in the race and get some points back. We've had a pretty good lap time over the last couple of races. We're going to ultimately look to win it. I was very happy when Helio went. I was happy when Dario went out there, wow, it was fast. And when Helio went, I was like he's in good shape. He's taking the points from Dario."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified fourth): "The Target car was great. There's more grip than this morning but the first lap I didn't know how much grip there was, so I was a little conservative with that first one than the second lap. It was a good pick up from practice so we'll see where that puts us. I think we have a better race car than qualifying car. I'm still shaking from qualifying. It's a great race track. It really produces great racing. It really is a place that you have to hang it all out."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, qualified fifth): "From where we had the Venom car balanced, we were able to benefit from the weather getting a bit cooler. We gained some grip and the car really came to us. Qualifying is important here, and overall, we were pleased with our run. This is a tough track to pass on -- you really have to work through Turns 3 and 4. I think if you look you'll see the field is super-close from first to last, so even the guys running a bit off pace will be tough to pass."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, qualified sixth): "I'm happy with that run. That was decent. We got the most out of the car. I'm really happy with the way the team worked this weekend. We really worked together and when that happens, it's a lot more fun."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, qualified seventh): "That was a pretty good run. We went a little conservative, which was a good thing, and the IZOD car was still really quick. We needed that. I need to thank my teammates for the help with the setup today. We all worked really well together. I think that's a good thing going into next year. It seems everybody is working well together."

E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology, qualified eighth): "We have been strong all day in practice and qualifying. I am happy with the improvements we have done on the PDVSA - KV Racing car. I worked with Takuma (Sato) to help him on the setup, and he had a good qualifying as well. We are now in a strong position for Sunday's race here at Motegi. We have had a good race car on the oval tracks this year, so I expect to be very good for the race. This track has so different turns. Turns 1 and 2 are flat on the throttle and Turns 3 and 4 are much more difficult for a driver. You really have to work with roll bars and weight jacker to adjust the car through the tighter Turns 3 and 4. I feel good going into the Motegi race."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, qualified ninth) "Our qualifying run in the National Guard Panther Racing car wasn't bad. We had a really good first practice session and the second session didn't go so well, and that set us back a little bit. I think we might have been a little better off that what our time showed in qualifying. But we'll see tomorrow; anything can happen in the race and we've got a good racecar so we've just got to push forward. I think we'll be good tomorrow in the race, I really do."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified 11th): "Our day has been a little different. We've just been shockingly bad compared to Dario (Franchitti). We're quicker through Turns 3 and 4 but get hosed with the rest of it. It's a day when we've been fighting both ends of the car. The car doesn't feel horrendous, we've just a bit slow."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, qualified 12th): "The GoDaddy car felt good out there. Qualifying is important here because it's not that easy to pass, so we'll just have to see. The only thing that didn't feel perfect was the downshifting in Turns 3 and 4, so we may need to look at some things there. I didn't go any faster in qualifying than I did in practice, so we'll need to figure out what made us lose a little bit of speed this afternoon."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 NHR/Quick Trim, qualified 16th): "Our out lap was pretty good, but the car understeered so I tried to chase it. With only a couple of clicks of the weight jacker, I had a big moment in Turns 3 and 4 on the first timed lap. The back of the car snapped on me. It was the biggest moment I've had since Homestead in 2008 (crashed in testing prior to the season-opener as rookie). After that, naturally for the second lap, I wanted to get the deal done and bring the car home in one piece. I was really, really hoping for better. We haven't had the pace of last year in race trim. We definitely need to work overnight to figure it out. What worked last year isn't working this year."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, qualified 17th): "It has been very, very busy for me but in a good way. There are a lot of fans in the grandstand and I am happy about that. I think the lap time was decent in qualifying, but I was expecting to qualifying around 12th. I think we have a quite decent race car. We don't have as much speed as we would like but the car is consistent. I think we can move forward in the race. For sure there is huge pressure since this is my home country."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing, qualified 19th): "We had an incident during the first practice session this morning that damaged the car and the crew worked really hard to get us out in time to get some laps during the second session today. So, a big thanks to them. But, we just didn't get enough track time to find everything we needed to get the car where we wanted it. We seem to be missing speed in a couple of the corners. It's really frustrating, but we'll see if we can make any progress tonight. Then I'll just focus on a clean race tomorrow and see how everything plays out.

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, qualified 23rd): "Today's results were not quite what we were looking for in times. We were struggling a bit with understeer in the first practice session and although we made some positive changes for the second session we still needed to free up the car. The guys worked really hard to try to get the car to where we thought we wanted to be for qualifying but, unfortunately, we went too far. We just have to work that much harder tomorrow to make sure we have a good result for Bowers & Wilkins and TorcUP."

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Takuma Sato , Sarah Fisher , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , Mario Moraes , Hideki Mutoh , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick
Teams Andretti Autosport , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team , Dragon Racing