The IZOD IndyCar Series made the long trip to Japan perhaps for the final time today. The series was forced to run on the road course at Twin-Ring Motegi, instead of the usual oval that was damaged by the earthquakes earlier this year.
Scott Dixon dominated the final event in Japan, winning the Pole award and leading nearly every single lap of the race in route to his second win of the season.
The Indy Japan 300 was the final road course of the year, with just the 1.5 mile ovals of Kentucky and Las Vegas remaining on the 2011 schedule. Once the 63 laps were complete on the 2.9 mile road course, the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship was officially decided. Much to the surprise of no one, Will Power came away with the trophy this year.
Scott Dixon started on the pole, and Will Power joined him on the front row. It was a bad break for Power, who just missed on picking up the bonus point in the overall Championship standings that comes with winning the Pole.
The race got off to a shaky start, as half the field didn’t seem to realize that the green flag was already out. Helio Castroneves went off into the sand entering the first turn, but he didn’t suffer any damage. Dixon held on to lead the first lap; the first of many.
On lap 21, Joao Paulo De Oliveira ran out of fuel on track, bringing out a full-course caution on lap 22. The top five remained the same for the first 20 laps, but Ryan Briscoe had a quicker pit stop than Graham Rahal just before the caution came out. Briscoe moved to third, Rahal back to fourth, and Franchitti remained in fifth.
The restart on lap 26 was the biggest part of the race. Heading into turn one, Franchitti went under Briscoe making it three-wide as their cars made contact. The move damaged both cars, in addition to Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball. It was a huge break for Power in the Championship standings.
In one bad move, Franchitti took himself out of contention for the race, as well as two other Ganassi cars, belonging to Rahal and Kimball. All three drivers were running in the top six at the time of the incident.
Franchitti was “penalized” by race control. He was told to go to the back of the field; a place where he already was. He was able to work his way back into the top ten, as he finished where he started in ninth place.
Tony Kanaan was given a drive through penalty for speeding on pit road late in the race. That penalty cost him over a dozen positions on the track. Dario lost zero positions for his “penalty” for taking out three other cars.
Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay made contact with just six laps remaining, which brought out the third caution of the race. At the time of the caution, there was a 22 second gap between Power (2nd) and Andretti (3rd).
Dixon and Power ran first and second virtually the entire way. Marco Andretti joined them on the podium, while Alex Tagliani and Servia rounded out the top five. The top three drivers in the Championship standings all finished the race in the same position where they started.
Entering the race at Motegi, Dario held on to a five-point Championship lead. Heading into the next-to-last race in 2011 at Kentucky, he now trails leader Will Power by 11 points.