CASTRONEVES WINS AT MOTEGI; CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE TIGHTENS HEADING INTO SEASON FINALE MOTEGI, Japan (Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010) -- Helio Castroneves passed Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe on a Lap 118 pit stop and held on to win the Indy Japan 300...
CASTRONEVES WINS AT MOTEGI; CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE TIGHTENS HEADING INTO SEASON FINALE
MOTEGI, Japan (Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010) -- Helio Castroneves passed Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe on a Lap 118 pit stop and held on to win the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. It was his second victory in a row and second at the 1.5-mile track.
"Team Penske is about execution and they gave me a fantastic car," said Castroneves, who backed up his win at Kentucky Speedway with the dominating win from the pole. "Every time I wanted to go for it, the car was responding."
Dario Franchitti beat Will Power to the finish line by 0.4997 of a second to claim second place and close the championship points gap to 12 heading into the season finale Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This is the fifth consecutive year that the championship will be determined at the final race of the season.
"It's great for us to put the Verizon car on the podium," said Power. "I've never finished ahead of him (Dario) on an oval and one day I'll get it, hopefully this year because if I don't, he'll win (the championship)."
The second-place finish also earned Franchitti the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series A.J. Foyt Oval Championship.
Briscoe finished fourth, matching a career best finish at Motegi and Danica Patrick was fifth, further extending her series record for consecutive races running at the finish to 32.
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
"Call me Chops," Tetsuo Kuramochi says as he delivers tires to the A.J. Foyt pit box four hours before the Indy Japan 300.
Sure, everyone else does at Twin Ring Motegi.
"It's so much fun for me and a great opportunity every year," says Chops with his brother, Naoki, in tow for the day ("Another body on race day is always needed."). "Every day I try to let Japanese people know how great the IZOD IndyCar Series is so they can enjoy it at the track and when they watch on TV. I also want to pay back to (the Foyt team) for the opportunity they gave me."
Chops began assisting the team at the track in 2003, riding his scooter an hour each way from his home in Utsunomiya, and he has returned as an honorary crew member every year. Now 24 years old and working as a test driver for PSG (a company that tests Honda street cars), he still resides in Utsunomiya.
In 2005, Chops flew to San Francisco to take in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway and attended the Indianapolis 500 in '06. He even rode in the transporter from Indy to Watkins Glen "to see America up close."
OK, about the nickname: Back in the day, Kuramochi helped the American crew members learn to use chop sticks at the welcome dinner.
"I like the nickname," he says. "It's something most people in Japan don't have and it's much easier to remember for foreign people."
A.J. Foyt IV and his wife, Casey, welcomed their first child on Sept. 18. Of course, their son's name is Anthony Joseph Foyt V.
"This is our Pinewood Derby car," IZOD IndyCar Series team owner Dale Coyne says as the first group of Boy Scouts arrives at his team's garage at Twin Ring Motegi. "It's just a little faster than the one you may build."
Coyne, who fields the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car driven by Alex Lloyd, played host to about 450 Boy Scouts from the BSA's Far East Council prior to the Indy Japan 300. Many of the Scouts are the children of U.S. Military personnel stationed in Japan and the group enjoyed the unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at an IZOD IndyCar Series team.
"We have American Scouts and Japanese Scouts here to learn a bit more about racing and this exposure to the sport will pay big dividends, especially to the youth as we get them excited about math and science," said Eric Moore, who manages the Boy Scouts of America's Motorsports Program. "The Far East Council has done some exceptional work and we wanted to use this as an opportunity to say thank you for what they are doing here for the Scouts."
Lloyd, who was a Boy Scout in his native England, thanks the Japanese-based Scouts for their support of him during the race.
For the first time this season on ovals, Takuma Sato didn't have Roger Yasukawa as his chief spotter. Yasukawa also was competing in the Indy Japan 300. Nick Harvey filled in in the spotter stand.
INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE NOTES:
* Polesitter Helio Castroneves is the winner of the Indy Japan 300. This is Castroneves' second win at Twin Ring Motegi. He previously won at the track in 2006. This is Castroneves third win this season, winning at Barber and Kentucky earlier this year.
* Castroneves led 153 laps, clinching the two bonus points for most laps led along with the bonus point for the Peak Performance Pole Award. He becomes the IZOD IndyCar Series all-time lap leader today, breaking the record held by Sam Hornish Jr of 3428. Castroneves has led 3487 laps.
* Dario Franchitti finished second, matching a career best finish at Motegi. Franchitti finished second at Motegi in 2000 and '09.
* Franchitti won the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series AJ Foyt Oval Champion.
* Franchitti now trails Will Power by 12 points in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship battle.
* Power finished third in his first start at Twin Ring Motegi. Motegi ends Power's streak of ten consecutive races of leading laps.
* Ryan Briscoe finished fourth, matching a career best at the track. He finished fourth in 2009.
* Danica Patrick finished fifth, extending her record streak of races running at the finish to 32.
* 2009 race winner Scott Dixon finished sixth. Both Dixon and Castroneves have been eliminated from the IZOD IndyCar Series championship hunt.
INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, winner Indy Japan 300): "Team Penske is about execution and they gave me a fantastic car. Every time I wanted to go for it, the car was responding."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi, finished second): "The race started very well. I was really the only person that could mix it up with Ryan (Briscoe) and Helio (Castroneves) all day. We were very good on restarts. We did make a small mistake on the downforce level today, but we did OK. Helio was just in a class of his own in terms of sheer speed but we could get him on the restarts occasionally. I was fighting as hard as I could with those guys. Will's guys did a great job in the pits and got him back up into contention. We can only control what we do and we did our best.
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, finished third): "I didn't get to see Helio (Castroneves) much. He was gone. I had a good experience at Motegi: I know how to run in traffic now. It's great for us to put the Verizon car on the podium. I've never finished ahead of him (Dario) on an oval and one day I'll get it. Hopefully this year because if I don't, he'll win."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, finished fourth): "It was really exciting out there today. I was racing hard with Dario (Franchitti) and it was awesome. We raced each other hard and clean. There are not too many guys out there that I feel comfortable racing with the way we did. Congratulations to Helio and Team Penske for bringing home the victory. The No. 6 car was great today, although our result was a bit unfortunate. We made a run on Dario on the last restart and he took me down to the white line and I had to back out of the throttle to avoid wrecking. Will was able to get by me after Dario blocked and I was not able to catch back up. Overall though, it was a great result for the team."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, finished fifth): "I'm pleased. Being a competitor, I always think about what could've, should've, would've been and how it could have been better and where things went a little bit wrong. I thought that the Go.Daddy car ran really well today. I was pleased with the way it handled. When we got in clean air, it was really fast. I think our lap time this year was almost a half-second quicker than the fastest lap time last year. Overall, I think everyone did a really good job. We just kind of lost out on those last pit stops."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished seventh): "I'm pleased with our effort today. We did have some issues with our overall speed and we have no idea why, so we have some things to look into when we get back to the shop. The 7-Eleven car was pretty good and we had good stops. The car was better toward the end of each stint, but we never got a green flag stop and that didn't help us either. But, if you look at the results, we're only getting beat by two teams week in and week out. That's frustrating, but we know who they are and we're working on what we need to do to get there."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 NHR/Quick Trim, finished eighth): "I am very happy with our finish to be honest. Really, you have to give all the credit to the Quick Trim team because they're the ones who made up the spots in the pits for me. We didn't quite have a car that was good enough to pass people really. Fourth gear was too long and every time out of Turn 4 I was getting pulled bad so that killed us. Fortunately we got by Marco in the pits and got by Hunter-Reay when he made a mistake. And that's where we had to be all day; we had to wait for others to make mistakes. The team did a great job in the pits so I have to give the credit to them. Going from where we fell back to at the start to move all the way back up to eighth was down to them. I think I only passed a few guys on track so the rest was done in pit lane. The Quick Trim guys did a good job and got us this finish."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, finished ninth): "It was a pretty frustrating day. That was a lot tougher than I expected it to be. We raced a lot worse than we qualified and that rarely happens with our team. It was really tough in traffic. We were just really struggling to try to find the handle and never quite had it. The IZOD guys did a good job in the pits and we just kind of hung around all day. But, we know some things we want to try next year when we come back and that is very important."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, finished 10th): "The National Guard Panther Racing car was well balanced today, but we just carried too much downforce and drag and it made it very hard to race with. Unfortunately sometimes when you're trying hard, like this team always does, it doesn't go for you. It was one of those days. We'll move on and try to close out this IZOD IndyCar Series season in victory lane."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, finished 11th): "It was a really frustrating day for the Venom crew. We had pretty high expectations but things didn't go our way. The car wasn't where we needed it - we made changes in the pits but nothing seemed to help. We'll regroup and move on the Homestead."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus - KV Racing Technology, finished 12th): "It was a tough race but a great result in the end for the Lotus - KV team. It was a difficult start with the tight pack and the slippery track. I needed to be patient, but I did a lot of overtaking today. That was great fun. I had Nick (Harvey) as my spotter and we worked well together. We lost a few places in the middle of the race, but we always fought back to gain positions. Overall, it was a great achievement for the whole team, and I want to thank them for everything they have done this weekend. Finally, I want to thank all the fans for their tremendous support."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, finished 13th): "Yeah it was a good race for the Bowers & Wilkins/TorcUP machine. We recovered well from the qualifying although obviously it would have been really nice to start in the top 10. I think that's what we had as a car all day on Saturday, but racing is sometimes recovering from little things. It was a good race, the strategy was good and the boys did a great job in the pits. We had a quick car and considering the track is known to be very difficult to pass, I think we can be very happy that we came back through the field ten positions. Overall, I think we can come away very happy and we finished in front of all the people we needed to finish in front of for the championship. We made up one spot and we'll go into Miami and try to do even better than we did here and wrap up the season doing the best job we can."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, finished 14th): "For the start of the race I think I was a little too conservative. It was my home Grand Prix and I wanted to make sure I didn't mess up the first stint. After that, the car was getting better and better; I was chasing it with the cockpit adjustments. At one point I was running second and it was awesome. It looked like our pit strategy was working out but it didn't in the end because of the yellow but I was so happy to run in front for the Japanese fans. I think that was the highlight of this race. On the last stint I was able to pass many cars; I just wanted to show the Japanese fans that I'm here. I think this is good momentum to carry to the last race at Homestead."
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology, finished 15th): "I thought we had a good car today. We had some trouble in the middle of the race and we lost spots. We have been working well with the engineers to get a car to run with the leaders. I think that is possible on a regular basis. Our PDVSA - KV car has been very good on the ovals this year. So I am really looking forward to the Homestead race in two weeks. That is home for me. So I am very excited to race there again."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP de Ferran Dragon Racing, finished 18th ) It was a tough race today. We tried to gamble on a strategy and it was working well until the yellow flag for Paul Tracy's incident. That hurt us. So, unfortunately, the strategy didn't pay off. It's really tough to pass on this track, so once we cycled to the back of the pack, it got even more difficult. So, of course we are disappointed that we didn't have a better result, but it definitely could have been worse. This track is very tricky.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will be broadcast in high definition at 6 p.m. (ET) on VERSUS. 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.