Indy Japan 300

Better Luck Next Time Tomas
By Esteban Morales

April 30 , 2005

     Some drivers have bad luck, others worse. However, every few years or so one or two joins the likes of the Andrettis; Mario of course never won Le Mans while Michael hopes to finally add an Indy victory as an owner. While drivers oftentimes have a difficult time with their initial break-through win, Tomas Scheckter just cannot seem to pull it together for that elusive second victory. After winning in style from the back of the pack with his job on the line at Michigan in 2002 those championship challenges have yet to materialize. Although he has been known to make an error or two behind the wheel, fate just seems to crash down on Scheckter more often than not, most recently as his Chevy began sputtering while leading with only two laps to go at the Indy Japan 300, held on the 1.5 mile Twin Ring Motegi. On the penultimate lap the yellow flew one last time, a caution which could have very well allowed the Panther Racing driver to coast under checkers had it fallen just one lap earlier.

     Although marred by a slew of yellow flags the event got underway with a very positive start as rookie Danica Patrick took the lead from polesitter Sam Hornish Jr. on the opening lap. Further down the pack Scott Dixon and Jeff Bucknum, who was making his IRL debut with Dreyer & Reinbold, connected bringing out the first yellow of the day. The flag however, was prematurely furled, as the field went green on lap 13 Alex Barron lost it on cold tires. With the green out on lap 17, Hornish took back his lead following a drag race with Patrick into turn 3. About a dozen laps later Patrick began showing her mettle as she anxiously past Hornish for the second time. The lead swapped once again as Scotsman Dario Franchitti led through the first round of green flag stops, past two yellows for debris and a challenge by defending champion Tony Kanaan.

     Franchitti continued to lead strongly while Patrick never lost touch with the leaders and maintained a top 5 slot. While she kept an impressive pace the black flag waved for teammate Buddy Rice as he was given a drive through penalty for blocking on lap 111. Just two laps later Roger Yasukawa’s engine let go in the second Dreyer & Reinbold entry bringing out the fourth caution of the day. Following yellow stops, Franchitti led teammates Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon back to the restart along with the rest of the field. The three Andretti Green Racing drivers battled it out wheel to wheel until Wheldon took command while Franchitti lost touch with the track’s groove and made contact in turn 4. Only four laps from the restart rookie Ed Carpenter collided with the turn 2 SAFER Barrier leading to a sixth caution.

     After the last set of yellow pit stops, Scheckter found himself in perfect position to challenge Wheldon. Scheckter wasted no time and led the event following the lap 150 restart. Kanaan joined him at the front with Wheldon falling to third. The Brazilian kept the pressure on for a few laps but finally gave way as Scheckter easily opened a 1.5 second lead. Panther Racing’s lead driver drove flawlessly and looked set to take the checkered flag for the second time in his career. Fuel became an evident issue as several leaders including Kanaan preemptively visited the pits for fuel. With no choice but to try and conserve fuel Scheckter made it to lap 198 and coasted out of methanol. Wheldon inherited the lead and took his third victory of the year under yellow after Helio Castroneves collided in turn 2 on the second to last lap.


1. Dan Wheldon
2. Scott Sharp
3. Buddy Rice
4. Danica Patrick
5. Bryan Herta
6. Tony Kanaan
7. Sam Hornish Jr.
8. Darren Manning
9. Kosuke Matsuura
10. Tomas Scheckter
11. Helio Castroneves
12. Ryan Briscoe
13. Patrick Carpentier
14. A.J. Foyt IV
15. Vitor Meira
16. Ed Carpenter
17. Dario Franchitti
18. Roger Yasukawa
19. Alex Barron
20. Paul Dana
21. Scott Dixon
22. Jeff Bucknum
23. Tomas Enge