Saturday, September 18, 2010

IZOD IndyCar: Castroneves Leads Penske Qualifying Sweep in Japan

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney
After 15 races, the 2010 IZOD IndyCar preultimate round brings the open wheel series to their only overseas engagement on the 1.55 mile oval called the Twin-Ring Motegi. A track owned and operated by local IZOD IndyCar engine supplier Honda, the planting in the series schedule shapes the Indy Japan 300 into a defining event for wrapping race seasons.

The renowned venue where open wheel's popular driver Danica Patrick won her first major racing event in 2008, the Twin-Ring Motegi oval was also significant to last year's IZOD IndyCar title chase. As Ryan Briscoe led the 2009 standings and appeared destined to perhaps clinch the series crown, Briscoe lost control of his Penske Racing owned machine banging it against the inner pit road wall. With the DNF at the Indy Japan 300, Ryan Briscoe would go on to lose out on the championship at Homestead Speedway to Dario Franchitti of rival team Target/Chip Ganassi Racing.

Entering into the 2010 edition, another Penske versus Target/Chip Ganassi battle appears firmly in the cards as Penske's Will Power holds a slim 17-point lead over Dario Franchitti. With Penske Racing drawing first blood through the two practice sessions on the Twin-Ring Motegi oval, the Captain's 3-car squad found all the speed they needed through IZOD IndyCar qualifying as all three stand at the top of the charts. Led by recent Kentucky Speedway race winner Helio Castroneves, the #3 car flew around the Japanese 1.55 oval in 201.992 miles per hour average during the 2-lap qualifying run. Despite a faster second lap, 2nd place Penske car of Ryan Briscoe started with a dismal first timed lap which resulted in an average 4/10ths a mile per hour slower run. Will Power rounds out for Penske Racing trio's dominant qualifying in 3rd place. Power is probably going to feel uncomfortable knowing his title rival Franchitti's #10 car will be starting right alongside his #12 Penske in the second row Sunday.

Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Ryan Hunter-Reay line up in the 5th through 7th positions all driving for Andretti Autosport. Fourth Andretti Autosport car and 2008 race winner Danica Patrick will take the green flag on the outside of the 6th row following a 12th place in the time trial session. As Patrick starts mid-field, the two other female IZOD IndyCar competitors Simona de Silvestro and Milka Duno exited the Twin-Ring Motegi qualifying will sadly start on the final two positions of the starting grid.

A Japanese event where two full-time drivers get welcomed home, native Hideki Mutoh delivered a 17th place run for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing but would be topped by series rookie and KV Racing Technology driver Takuma Sato. Averaging a pace good enough for 10th place, Former Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato has visited Honda's other popular motorsport park facility of Suzuka but competes in open wheels at the Twin-Ring Motegi oval for the first time. After what has been a first season filled with misfortune for situations out of his control, Sato found solace in the patriotic Japanese fans.

Starting with a 25-car field in Japan, North American fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series will have to stay or wake up at midnight Eastern time to catch the Indy Japan 300 on TSN2 for Canadian audiences or Versus for American viewers.

2010 IZOD IndyCar
Indy Japan 300
Twin-Ring Motegi
Qualifying Results 

1. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing

2. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
3. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
4. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
5. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
6. 11 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ Andretti Autosport
7. 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport
8. 8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology
9. 4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing
10. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
11. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
12. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
13. 34 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing
14. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
15. 19 Alex Lloyd/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
16. 02 Graham Rahal/United States/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
17. 06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
18. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
19. 2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ de Ferran Dragon Racing
20. 32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology
21. 36 Roger Yasukawa/United States/ Conquest Racing
22. 24 Paul Tracy/Canada/ Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
23. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team
24. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing
25. 18 Milka Duno/Venezuela/ Dale Coyne Racing

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