2010 Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi
By D. Brian Smith
Photography: Chris Jones, Ron McQueeny & Courtesy of IndyCar Media
Post Production & Digi-art: Ben Moment
The Indy Japan 300 got off to a clean start, but Bertrand Baguette hit the wall in turn 2 shortly after the start to bring out the first caution flag. On lap 11, the green flag gave the racers a good Go. With 15 laps completed, Castroneves is leading, Briscoe 2nd, Franchitti is 3rd. Briscoe is 1.5 seconds behind Helio, while Franchitti is 4.5 seconds behind Castroneves. The track is 122 degrees Fahrenheit and there's 45-percent humidity. This is the hottest race condition the IndyCar series has had to endure all year. With this race and the season ending contest to go, Dario Franchitti, the winner of last year's championship, is just 15 points behind Will Power.
Thus far, the fastest lap of the race has been turned by Pole Sitter and race leader Helio Castroneves, with a 199.99 mph effort. The Alex Lloyd car, on lap 39 stalled and brought out the yellow flag. Everyone is laid out, getting ready to make pit stops. Helio maintains the lead through the 2nd caution. Takuma Sato's in 15th place and is making a roll bar change on lap 51 from the cockpit.
Milka Dumo is a lap down from the field, on lap 53, while everyone else is on lap 54. Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti round out the top 5 positions, with Helio, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti still commanding the podium places during the middle 50 laps. As it has the last several years, the season championship winner will come down to the season ending campaign at Homestead Race Course in Miami, Florida.
The KV Racing entry #32, driven by Mario Moraes, showed sparks on the left rear and spun out, hitting the outside wall on lap 68. Of course, this brought out another caution flag, the third of the contest. Helio came in for a pit stop, took on fuel and changed tires. Will Power gained three positions. Rafael Matos didn't pit and now leads the race. Hideki Mutoh also didn't stop. They're both gambling to be on the podium. Matos has gained 18 positions, Mutoh 15 and Tagliani 9 during the race. It's still almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit and on lap 77, under caution. The race gets green for Go on lap 78. Dario is aggressively going for the lead, as he said he would. Danica is in 6th place. Power is back in 9th, after making up 3 places in the Pits, so went from 6th to 9th at the re-start of the race from caution.
Danica is coming back at Helio on lap 82. She has some great momentum. Helio is moving back towards the front and is now in 3rd, on lap 88. Kanaan has more down force and catches Will Power in the corners, but Power has more power (pun intended) and pulls away from Kanaan on the straights. Dario moves into 4th place on lap 91. Ryan Briscoe takes over the lead, with Matos second and Castroneves in 3rd, on lap 95 of 200. Helio managed to get around Matos and is cutting into Briscoe's lead, running a strong and aggressive 2nd place. Dario takes over 3rd, as Matos has to finally pit.
Matos makes an 8.5 second pit stop and comes back out on the track. Mutoh comes in right after, at lap 105. Helio continues to close in on Ryan Briscoe on lap 107, with the time gap being less than half a second.
Paul Tracy rubbed the outside wall on lap 113 and brought out another caution. Matos' and Mutoh's gamble backfired, as they came in right before this caution and lost the positions they had gained earlier, when they didn't pit. All the leaders, Franchitti, Danica Patrick, Helios, etc. all come in. Danica makes a strong stop and captures 4th position coming out of the pits. Mario Moraes is awake and alert. He'll be air lifted to the hospital under suspicion of back pain, just as a precaution. The lead is in the hands of Mr. Castroneves, with Mr. Briscoe 2nd and Dario 3rd. Danica, the Go Daddy Girl is going great in 4th. Kanaan tries to take 6th from Will Power on the restart, while Danica continues to run strong and hold 4th. Takuma Sato changes the roll bars yet again and is in lucky 13th, on lap 128. Sato and E.J. Viso combat for the 12th position. Vitor Meira runs in 14th spot.
With 133 laps completed, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick and Scott Dixon round out the top 5 contenders, as they go 'round and 'round. Coming into this race, Helio had led a total of 90 laps all races combined for this season, but has already led 92 laps this race. On lap 144, Helio is seemingly running away from the field, pulling a bigger gap between him and Dario Franchitti almost with every lap. Andretti Autosport has all four racers in the top ten, with Danica Patrick leading the Autosporters in 4th place.
On lap 148, Alex Lloyd has more bad luck. He made heavy contact with the turn 2 outside wall. He took out the entire right side of his suspension, and the car caught fire. Everyone will top off the ethanol for this caution. With just 50 laps to run to the finish, all racers will have enough petrol to complete the race. The next restart should be sublime. All drivers will be gunning to jump the start and gain some positions. Danica makes an awesome move into the pits and hammers out smoothly. Ryan Briscoe beat Franchitti to the line and got past him out of the pits. While in the caution, he's still in 3rd. Race officials are determining whether he should be in 2nd, or should be penalized for coming out of the pits while speeding.
Hideki Mutoh runs in 17th place as his dad watches him for the first time in person from the stands in the IZOD IndyCar Series. On lap 163 the field is still under caution, awaiting a clean track and the restart.
The green comes out on lap 167, while the standings remain the same. Briscoe tries to pass Franchitti after the restart and Power jumps past Briscoe for 3rd. Danica is in 5th place. Franchitti manages to hold 2nd. Being an 11-time oval track IndyCar winner, he knows how to hold his place on restarts. Power's lead over Dario Franchitti stands at 12 points, with Power in 3rd place and Franchitti in 2nd. It doesn't get much closer than that, race fans!
Helio Castroneves wins the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi with sheer right foot to the carbon fiber speed and racing ability. His and Team Penske's victory at Kentucky Speedway was by being cunning and thrifty with the fuel. This win came from driving fast and pure, the way every racer prefers to win if they have a choice. Helio led 153 laps of the race. In customary Castroneves fashion, he ran across the track and climbed the fence, claiming his second race win in a row of the 2010 season. Will Power claimed 3rd and does have a 12 point margin going into the last race of the season at Homestead Miami in two weeks. Dario Franchitti is a scant 12 points behind Mr. Power. Miami should be interesting, Redline Reviewers. Be sure to be with us for the last race of the IndyCar 2010 season. While you're at it, check out all the action, with photography courtesy of IndyCar Media and the post production magic of Redline Review, where It's All About Speed.