The Land of the Rising Sun played host to the IndyCar series last night at Twin Ring Motegi. Non-typical for Motegi, the race ran the full distance without any rain. For the most part, the affair was pretty exciting.
Scott Dixon started the race on pole, and the running order was established early on. Dixon and Franchitti led pretty much the entire race, but there was a bit of intrigue behind them. Briscoe, who started the race 25 points ahead in the championship, was clearly saving fuel from the start. On the first pit exchange Ryan was able to leg out another lap after Franchitti and Dixon came in. The running order stayed pretty much the same going in to the second set of stops, except Briscoe again was able to stay out for extra laps after the Target cars came in to pit. Briscoe came in for his second stop, right as Mike Conway made hard contact with the backstretch wall. On review, it was clear that Briscoe was on pit lane before the yellow came out, but that didn’t matter because Ryan lit up his tires on pit exit in an attempt to beat Scott Dixon to the blend line to take the race lead, but things didn’t quite work out the way he hoped.
Ryan lost control of his car when it hit the tarmac coming off of the concrete pit lane. The rear wheel stagger helped the car make a left and he ran over the pit exit cone and nudged the inside wall before regaining control. Unfortunately for him (and his championship clenching hopes), the cone stayed firmly planted under the car as it made laps, forcing him to make another stop to get it removed, but worse, it was discovered that Ryan’s front left suspension was damaged by the wall contact. He lost 12 laps before they were able to get the repaired car back on track, and ended up finishing 15 laps down in 18th position.
Back at the front of the pack, Dixon and Franchitti ran together for the remainder of the race, but it was Dixon who took the lead from Franchitti after the second pit stop due to the lapped traffic of Raphael Matos. Dixon held on to the lead for the remainder of the race and took home maximum points for the win, leading the most laps and the pole. Dario took second place.
As for the remainder of the field, Newman Haas Lanigan continued to show their strong form on the ovals this year. Granted, they fell off a little during the middle of the season, but last night Rahal took home 3rd and Servia secured 4th. For reference, Doornbos who “chose” to leave NHL finished 16th for HVM. Still have to say that Doornbos had no choice in this matter. NHL is not the highly funded team that they were in the CART/CCWS days, but they have been putting up fantastic results and take my vote as the 3rd strongest team in the series. They have only been helped by hiring Servia to replace Doornbos.
5th place was taken by Mario Moraes with KV racing, marking their 3rd top 5 in the last three races. KV showed strong last year when they had Servia on the team, now Mario appears to be gaining some control and experience, enabling him to get the most out of their equipment.
Entering the race in the “incapable” category, Stanton Barrett was 18 laps down at the checkers. Interestingly, Ryan Briscoe who had to have his entire front left suspension rebuilt finished better than him. Stanton was running the entire race and kept his nose clean all day by staying out of the way of the actual competitors. Maybe he should have taken a clue from his earlier failures this season and stayed stateside. Motegi is an entirely different beast than all the high banked 1.5 mile ovals in the states. The skill level required to drive this track is a step above the 1.5 milers in the states. Clearly Stanton should have known better.
Here are the final results:
1. (1) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
2. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
3. (5) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
4. (7) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
5. (2) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
6. (6) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
7. (14) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
8. (8) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
9. (12) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
10. (21) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
11. (23) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
12. (9) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
13. (11) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
14. (22) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
15. (18) E.J. Viso, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
16. (19) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
17. (16) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 195, Running
18. (4) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 185, Running
19. (20) Stanton Barrett, Dallara-Honda, 182, Running
20. (17) Roger Yasukawa, Dallara-Honda, 172, Running
21. (15) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 157, Contact
22. (13) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 103, Contact
23. (10) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 83, Mechanical