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Indy Japan 300

 

 

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"Check, Please!"
by Esteban Morales

September 19, 2009

With one race remaining, the hunt for the title remains wide open following Ryan Briscoe’s uncharacteristic mistake on pit lane during the Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi.  Briscoe, who managed to run longer than his Target Chip Ganassi Racing rivals, entered the pits moments before a yellow flag flew near the halfway mark.  Despite the yellow flag advantage, Briscoe collided with the inside retaining wall after lighting up his tires on his way out of the pits.  Reigning champion, Scott Dixon, maximized the opportunity by winning the event and taking over the points lead while Briscoe finished a dismal eighteenth.

Before the start of the event, Mario Moraes surprised the field by nearly taking pole.  Moraes was bumped from the top spot by Dixon and started on the outside of the front row.  On the opening lap, Dixon’s teammate, Dario Franchitti, improved one position and tailed Dixon through the opening stint.  While Dixon, Franchitti, and Moraes settled at the front, Dan Wheldon clawed his way towards the leaders after starting eighth.  Wheldon took fifth from Danica Patrick on lap 21, and set his sights on Briscoe.  Wheldon took the position two laps before making his first pit stop and improved to third following the stop.  Ahead of Wheldon, Dixon lost the lead to Franchitti after having been slowed by Hideki Mutoh and Ed Carpenter during his stop.  Dixon momentarily challenged for the lead before Franchitti opened a one-second lead that grew to nearly three seconds before the second set of scheduled stops.

While Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe kept in touch with the leaders, his teammate, Helio Castroneves, was not a factor in the race.  On lap 77, Franchitti easily lapped Castroneves.  Franchitti made his second stop on lap 102, momentarily handing the lead to Briscoe a handful of laps before his abysmal stop.  On lap 106, Mike Conway spun in the third and fourth turns, leading to the first caution of the event moments after Briscoe entered the pits.  Briscoe looked set to keep the lead following the stop but made a critical error while exiting and hit the track’s inside wall.  “I just gassed it too much leaving my box, and the car spun,” said Briscoe.  The Team Penske driver stopped twice more during the caution period in order to replace his Dallara’s front wing and several suspension pieces on the left side of the car.  He eventually rejoined several laps down on lap 124.

Before the yellow flag and Briscoe’s stop, Dixon passed Franchitti for position.  During the yellow, Dixon continued ahead of Franchitti and became the leader of the race.  Dixon led over Franchitti and Wheldon throughout the penultimate stint before pitting on lap 160.  While the leader was in the pits, Ryan Hunter-Reay collided in Turn 4, bringing out the second caution of the event.  Following yellow flag stops, Dixon emerged ahead of Franchitti, Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia, and Mario Moraes.

When the green flag dropped for the final time on lap 172, Dixon easily led over Franchitti and quickly extended his lead.  Rahal, mired behind lapped traffic, was unable to mount a serious challenge while Dixon ran trouble-free and earned his fifth victory of the year.  “Dixie’s paying for the beer tonight,” explained Franchitti after finishing second to Dixon.  The championship contenders head to the final race separated by only eight points.  Franchitti, Dixon’s nearest rival, trails the leader by five points while Briscoe sits in third, eight points behind Dixon.

Results:

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Dario Franchitti
  3. Graham Rahal
  4. Oriol Servia
  5. Mario Moraes
  6. Danica Patrick
  7. Marco Andretti
  8. Dan Wheldon
  9. Raphael Matos
  10. Helio Castroneves
  11. Tony Kanaan
  12. Justin Wilson
  13. Ed Carpenter
  14. Hideki Mutoh
  15. E.J. Viso
  16. Robert Doornbos
  17. Kosuke Matsuura
  18. Ryan Briscoe
  19. Stanton Barrett
  20. Roger Yasukawa
  21. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  22. Mike Conway
  23. Tomas Scheckter