Castroneves Wins in Japan; Championship to be Decided at HMS
Will Power (right) now leads Dario Franchitti by 12 points: "We look forward to a tough fight at Homestead." (photo courtesy John Harrelson Getty Images Sport)
South Florida resident Helio Castroneves passed Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe on a Lap 118 pit stop and held on to win in Japan. It was his second victory in a row and second at Motegi. Castroneves dominated the field by leading 153 of the 200 laps.
"Team Penske is about execution and they gave me a fantastic car," said Castroneves, who backed up his win at Kentucky with a dominating win from the pole. "Every time I wanted to go for it, the car was responding."
Dario Franchitti beat Will Power to the finish line by 0.4997 of a second to claim second place and close the Championship points gap to only 12 heading into the Championship finale Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This is the fifth consecutive year that the championship will be determined at the final race of the season.
As to that “Championship” experience, consider that the past four seasons the IndyCar title has been decided in the final race—including right here in Miami last fall, when Franchitti passed Briscoe and Scott Dixon with just eight laps to go to win his second IndyCar Championship. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30—with all kids 12 and under admitted FREE into general admission—and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
"It's great for us to put the Verizon car on the podium," said Power. "I've never finished ahead of him (Dario) on an oval and one day I'll get it, hopefully this year because if I don't, he'll win (the championship)."
"We look forward to a tough fight at Homestead," he continued. "I'll be working very hard to have a very good race car. Hopefully, it won't rain because the advantage will go to Dario."
Power now leads Franchitti by 12 points. "It's better than 17," said Franchitti after finishing second behind Castroneves. "It's a hurdle to cross. It's a challenge. It's there in front of us and we'll go to Homestead and do our best."
Briscoe finished fourth, matching a career best finish at Motegi and Danica Patrick was fifth. Patrick was followed by Dixon and South Florida resident Tony Kanaan in seventh. Patrick finished fifth after starting 12th and in the process extended her IZOD IndyCar Series record for consecutive races running at the finish to 32. Motorsports’ first lady will race twice at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2010 - during IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)—and a special “Double the Danica” ticket package is available here.
“I was really disappointed after qualifying yesterday,” said Patrick. “I said if we could get a top five today, I'd be thrilled. And, we got a top five."
The IndyCar Series now moves to the Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 1-2.
During the post race press conference, Power wrapped up his portion of the conference as Franchitti approached. As they traded places behind the microphone, Power looked up and exchanged a glance.
"I'll kick your ass," he said as his face turned to a grin.
Franchitti responded with two words. "Bring it."
Once again the IndyCar Series championship comes down to the last race and could come down to the last lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 2. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30—with all kids 12 and under admitted FREE into general admission—and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
Will Power wins the championship if:
• He wins his first IZOD IndyCar Series race on an oval
• He finishes second to Dario Franchitti in the Cafés do Brasil Indy 300
• He finishes no lower than two positions behind Franchitti
Dario Franchitti wins his second consecutive championship (and third overall) if:
• He wins the race for the second year in a row and Power finishes third or lower
• He wins the 200-lap race and earns at least one of three available bonus points (one for pole, two for most laps led) while Power finishes third or lower
• He makes up 13 points, which carries several scenarios. First place worth 50 points, 40 for second, 35 for third, etc
Open It Up: South Florida’s IndyCar Drivers
"We'll regroup and move on to Homestead,"
--South Beach-resident Marco Andretti, after an eleventh place finish in Race 16 of 17 en route to Miami for Championship Weekend
Marco Andretti endured a tough afternoon in Japan despite recent strong showings on the ovals—a good sign for the South Beach resident en route to running on his “home track” oval of Homestead-Miami Speedway during IndyCar Championship Weekend Oct. 1-2. He led Andretti Autosport drivers in qualifying (5th) but struggled during the race before finishing 11th.
"It was a really frustrating day for the Venom crew. We had pretty high expectations but things didn't go our way. The car wasn't where we needed it - we made changes in the pits but nothing seemed to help. We'll regroup and move on to Homestead."
Miami resident Tony Kanaan finished seventh after a sixth place qualifying effort. Kanaan struggled with overall speed and handling late in the race. Fans can meet Kanaan live in the Coke Zero Fan Zone Oct. 2 before the Cafés Do Brasil Indy 300. Click here for tickets.
Said Kanaan: "I'm pleased with our effort today. We did have some issues with our overall speed and we have no idea why, so we have some things to look into when we get back to the shop. The 7-Eleven car was pretty good and we had good stops. But, if you look at the results, we're only getting beat by two teams week in and week out. That's frustrating, but we know who they are and we're working on what we need to do to get there."
Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay finished ninth.
"We raced a lot worse than we qualified and that rarely happens with our team,” the Boca Raton-native said post-race. It was really tough in traffic. We were just really struggling to try to find the handle and never quite had it.”
Miami resident Raphael Matos led a career-high 15 laps for de Ferran Dragon Racing, but the team's risky move on strategy did not work out in the end.
Matos started 19th, but moved into the lead when the team elected to stay out on the track instead of pitting with the leaders during the third caution of the race. He held the lead for 15 laps and remained in the Top 3 until having to pit on Lap 102.
"It was a tough race today," Matos said. "We tried to gamble on a strategy and it was working well until the yellow flag for Paul Tracy's incident. That hurt us. So, we'll continue to focus on finding that, and aim to finish the season strong in Homestead in two weeks."
Matos stayed out on track once again when the leaders went to the pits during the fourth yellow to cycle back onto the lead lap. He remained in that spot the remainder of the race to finish 18th. Meet “Rafa” in the Coke Zero Fan Zone Oct. 2 during the NextEra Energy Indy Championships.
The Championship will again be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2. Lock in your tickets NOW to see the IndyCar Champion crowned at Championship value: Tickets start at $30—with all kids 12 and under admitted FREE into general admission—and are available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by logging on to THEChampionshipTrack.com.
How South Florida drivers fared in Race 16 of 17 en route to Championship Weekend in Miami:
1. Helio Castroneves
7. Tony Kanaan
9. Ryan Hunter-Reay
11. Marco Andretti
15. E.J. Viso
17. Vitor Meira
18. Raphael Matos
19. Milka Duno
24. Mario Moraes