Series news and notes 2009-09-14

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Championship race heads to Far East 2. IndyCar Series spans globe for Japan race 1. Championship race heads to Far East: Note to IndyCar Series championship contenders Ryan...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Championship race heads to Far East
2. IndyCar Series spans globe for Japan race

1. Championship race heads to Far East: Note to IndyCar Series championship contenders Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti: It's beneficial to start up front. Though all three are aware of that fact, they haven't been too successful in accomplishing a strong starting spot at the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval.

Team Penske's Briscoe, who takes a 25-point lead over Franchitti into the Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 19, has started 15th and 13th in his races on the mountaintop track, with a high finish of ninth (2008). In his 2007 series championship-winning season, Franchitti started seventh and finish third. Those were highs among his four races.

Dixon, who trails Briscoe by 33 points, started from the pole in the inaugural IndyCar Series race in 2003 (his first championship season), but finished 15th. Last year, in his second title season, Dixon started second and finished third. In between were highs of second (start in 2006) and fourth (finish in 2007).

"It has been good as far as results, but I've had big crashes and bad races there, and the good ones we've had I've never won, "Dixon said. "It's a track we've been going to since 2001 (two years in CART before switching to the IndyCar Series) and I would have loved to have won - especially last year when we really had a dominant car and led a lot of laps but strategy-wise it just didn't work out. Hopefully, it can repay us this year.

"It is definitely one of the toughest tracks we go to. It's a 1½-mile oval but it is shaped like an egg and very different. Turns 3 and 4 are very difficult but Turns 1 and 2 are so easy and wide open you get a tow going into Turn 3. It takes a lot of commitment going into Turns 3 and 4. You have to stay committed and some years we go there we are running wide open over 200 miles an hour, which is pretty crazy."

In '08, drivers starting on the front row won eight of the 17 races (including six from the pole). Add four victories from drivers starting third and fourth.

In four races on 1.5-mile ovals this season, Briscoe has led 321 laps (won two), Dixon has led 290 laps (won one) and Franchitti has led 44 laps (high finish of fourth at Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 29).

Briscoe is the only title contender to lead laps at all four tracks and earned bonus points for leading the most laps at two (Texas and Chicagoland). Dixon led the most laps at Kansas and Kentucky. Briscoe's teammate, Helio Castroneves, has led 85 laps on 1.5-mile ovals with a victory at Texas. Castroneves is a three-time pole winner at Twin Ring Motegi and has capitalized on one for a victory in 2006.

"It's a very challenging oval with two different ends, so it's difficult to get the setup right to handle well in both Turns 1-2 and Turns 3-4," Castroneves said. "We've achieved some great results in Japan and I'm hoping for more of the same this year. Team Penske has been performing well on the 1.5-mile ovals all year, which gives us a lot of confidence heading into the race."


2. IndyCar Series spans globe for Japan race: By land, sea and air, the IndyCar Series is en route to Japan for the Sept. 19 Indy Japan 300.

The 13,000-mile round-trip adventure has been a topic on Bill van de Sandt's day planner since he joined the Indy Racing League as director of operations in January.

In sync has been Firestone Racing, which began the multi-point preparations for manufacturing and transport of Firestone Firehawks and support equipment for the 23-car entrant list to Twin Ring Motegi more than five months ago.

From Firestone Racing engineers in Akron, Ohio, finalizing the tire specification and submitting the production order to the 1,116 Firehawks being loaded on a boat to Tokyo, the process has been one of logistical cooperation.

"A great deal of logistics goes into making sure over 1,100 Firestone Firehawk race tires make it to and from Japan safely," said Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing. "The Indy Japan 300 is a big race for us as our parent company, Bridgestone Corporation, is headquartered in Tokyo. So we really appreciate all of the hard work that our engineers and tire builders in Akron, as well as our partners at Performance Tire in Indianapolis, put into making sure the entire operation goes off without a hitch."

Tires designated for the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval were delivered through the first week of July to Performance Tire Service Co., where they were stored in its 56,000-square-foot warehouse. The tires and machinery (changers, balancers, basically everything needed to do the majority of service) were loaded into three shipping containers on Aug. 12 and sent by truck to the Port of Long Beach (Calif).

The Pacific Ocean crossing took 13 days, and then the containers were trucked the 90 miles to Twin Ring Motegi. All the tires will make a round trip -- either to Indianapolis for recycling or first to Akron for analysis prior to being sent to Performance Tire Service Co. for recycling.

Performance Tire Service Co. also shipped seven boxes of firesuits, radios and other items needed at the Aug. 29 Chicagoland Speedway race by air. In addition, Honda Performance Development shipped 10 spare Honda Indy V-8 engines by air to the track from its Santa Clarita, Calif., base.

Back on terra firma, four operators swarmed around metal pallets Sept. 9 in a choreographed forklift ballet to transfer more than 350,000 pounds of race cars and equipment from a parking lot at Indianapolis International Airport to the staging area, where it will be swallowed in short order by two behemoth Nippon Cargo Air 747-400B airplanes.

The IndyCar Series' shipment isn't the heaviest (both planes can total up to 450,000 takeoff weight) that Nippon Cargo Air deals with, but is among the highest in volume. Forty-six race cars (two per entrant), pit and garage equipment and consumables are meticulously packaged, arranged on a pallet and wrapped in plastic by teams for the trip. The three Delphi Safety Team trucks and the Honda Accord Safety Car were delivered for a separate scheduled flight following the Chicagoland Speedway event.

"There's certainly a flow and organization that needs to be in place, and the people who have been doing it for a number of years and are very experienced at it just make it all happen," said van de Sandt, who oversees the project on both ends of the globe.

Upon arrival at Narita International Airport near Tokyo, the freight is transferred to trucks to continue the journey to Twin Ring Motegi. Manifests are checked and spot customs inspections are conducted at the track in time for team personnel to unpack Sept. 17 and begin preparations for the race weekend.

Before the champagne is uncorked in Victory Circle, packing is underway for the return trip.

"It's a difficult process, but it's very well-organized," van de Sandt said. "The cooperation of the governments, the freight forwarder and the airlines works very well. It's a process that is very effective and efficient."


The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Sept. 19 with the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 18 by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on A one-hour qualifying show will air on VERSUS at 6 p.m. on Sept. 18. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Homestead-Miami 100 on Oct. 9 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast by Live by VERSUS at 6 p.m. (EDT).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Ryan Briscoe
Teams Team Penske