Scott Dixon wins final IndyCar race at Motegi
Dixon held off Will Power -- the new championship front-runner and repeat Mario Andretti Road Trophy titlist -- to win the final race at the mountaintop motorsports retreat by 3.4 seconds and remain a factor in the title chase.
That race within a race turned on a Lap 26 restart when Dario Franchitti, who carried a five-point leader over Power into the 63-lap race, swung to the right and made contact with the right-rear of the No. 6 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske car driven by Ryan Briscoe entering Turn 1. Franchitti engaged reverse gear and continued, while Briscoe and Graham Rahal continued after being restarted.
"It was a stupid move on my part," said Franchitti, who also started ninth. "I did a lot hard work to get from ninth to fifth, and I'd been saving fuel the whole first stint. I thought there was a gap and Ryan was going wide on the entry and that was that. It was just a stupid move and we had a great fight back. We'll shrug this one off, move forward and see if we can do better next (race)."
Race Control levied an avoidable contact penalty on the reigning series champion, which sent him to the rear of the field. He advanced 16 spots to finish ninth.
“At no point in time was I settling for second," said Power of his determined effort. "I was giving it everything I got. If we can finish second today and win the championship, that’s alright by me.”
It was Dixon's 27th Indy car victory, breaking a tie with Rodger Ward and tying Johnny Rutherford for 11th on the all-time list. He has the distinction of winning on the 1.5-mile oval and now the 2.983-mile road course. A day earlier, he tied Emerson Fittipaldi for 18th with his 17th earned pole.
Marco Andretti finished third in the No. 26 Team Venom Energy car -- his best road/street course placing of the season -- and Alex Tagliani advanced 11 spots relative to his starting position to finish fourth in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Oriol Servia also made a major move -- from 16th to fifth in the No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing car.
With the conclusion of the 14th and final race for Indy cars in Japan, and the final road-race event of 2011, the IZOD IndyCar Series now takes a week off before returning to 1.5-mile oval circuits for the final two races of the season, beginning with the October 2 Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Speedway and followed by the season-ending IZOD IndyCar World Championships Presented by Honda at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
MARCO ANDRETTI, No. 26 Team Venom Energy: "If it's going to be green all the way home, you just have to hit your marks and bring it home. But restarts you never know what's going to happen. I actually lost a position to Oriol (Servia) and I was able to get it back. Good day for the Team Venom Energy team."
WILL POWER, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske: "It was a solid day overall for Verizon Team Penske. We tried everything we possibly could to get (Scott) Dixon but he was very aggressive and he really deserved the win. It was a good day for us points-wise in the championship but I'm really not worried about points right now. I just need to keep finishing in front of the 10 car the rest of the way and we'll be fine. We'll keep chipping away like we have been. It's an honor to win the Mario Andretti Road Course award again - I have such respect for Mario and all he's accomplished. Now, we need to keep going and finish the season strong on the ovals."
SCOTT DIXON, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing: "I have to give a lot of credit to Team Target; they gave me a fantastic car. In some sections of the race I was just cruising trying to save fuel. Great pit stops and fuel strategy, and everything was flawless."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing: "First, I'd like to congratulate my teammate. (Scott) did great job all weekend. The incident was totally my mistake, totally my mistake. I did a lot hard work to get from ninth to fifth, and I'd been saving fuel the whole first stint. I made risky move on the restart. I thought there was a gap and Ryan (Briscoe) was going wide on the entry and that was that. It was just a stupid move and we had a great fight back from 25th. Great job by the guys in the pits and I drove as hard as I knew how. I shouldn't have put us in that position. We still have it all to play for, but I keep making it more difficult. (About how this affects the championship): "If you win or if you lose, you always look at the championship as a whole. Today, Loudon, Texas, Indy and on and on. You always look at these things, but Will (Power) can do the same with his races. That was a mistake today. Shouldn't have made it." (Chip Ganassi and Graham both came by to talk to you. What was said): "I apologized to Graham and I apologized to Chip. Briscoe and Charlie (Kimball) I will apologize to when I see him. I own up to the mistake and Chip is right to be critical. It was a stupid move, and I shouldn't have done it."
RYAN BRISCOE, No. 6 Hitachi Team Penske: "That was a tough result today. Our Hitachi Team Penske car was strong. We were running up front and Franchitti just drove into us on the restart. Obviously he was penalized for the move but it really damaged both our car and any chance of fighting for the win. I want to thank my guys for their hard work in the pits again today and we will look to close out the year strong on the Kentucky and Las Vegas ovals."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY, No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda: "It's disappointing. We had another solid top-10 going for the DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop car - we would have finished sixth if (Sebastien) Bourdais hadn't taken us out. I'll have to look at the video, I thought I cleared him, the whole team thinks I cleared him. We'll have to see a replay and see but it's disappointing."
MIKE CONWAY, No. 27 @FollowAndretti: "It was a tough day really. We seemed to be working our way up through the field and then had a bad pit stop on our last stop. After that we were forced back behind the cars we had overtook and it made it hard from there."
DANICA PATRICK, No. 7 Team GoDaddy: "It was kind of a funny race - picking off spots from other accidents and others making mistakes and then from strategy. It was nice to be able to make it on two stops and we were able to save the fuel when we needed. Then on the last stint Graham (Rahal) came out right behind me and I had to drive hard and wasn't able to save as much fuel and still stay ahead of him and I did. It was nice to be able to because obviously he's a pretty fast car. Overall today was a decent result for the Go Daddy team having started in the back of the field."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing: "On the start, I made a bit of a mistake and got into Turn 1 a little hot and got some understeer and unfortunately forced Helio out in the dirt. I really felt bad about that; it was my fault and it certainly made a long day for him. We managed to stay on track and (Charlie) Kimball got by us. We lost a couple of spots in Turn 1 but settled into a bit of a pace and then halfway through the first stint we started to lose the back end of the car and I was really struggling with rear grip and the lap times started falling off. We had a big line of cars behind us and I did my best to keep them behind me. Jakes got by and then Marco got by right before we pitted and then in the pit stop we unfortunately had a wheel nut pop out of the gun and, because I had been going so slow we had so many people stacked up behind us and it ended up costing us a lot of positions. When we went back on track we were on the primary black tires but we were now down with the guys who were running the alternate tire strategy that started on blacks and were now on red's (alternates) so we were sitting ducks a little bit because the balance wasn't great and we were on the slower tires so we fell back a bunch more which made for a very long second stint. On the third stint, the second pit stop was really good and we gained a spot or two. The car was a little bit better, we made some tire pressure adjustments and some wing adjustments which got the car a little more drivable but at the end of the day it was just such a handful. It was very unfortunate that we didn't capitalize on the strong qualifying performance. We got a little spooked after not feeling too good in the warm-up and did a very uncharacteristic thing and made a big change to the car and unfortunately it was the wrong way to go. We dug ourselves our own grave today and its unfortunate when you have days like that."
ORIOL SERVIA, No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing: "To finish fifth after starting 16th is a great result for the Telemundo team. It was important for the point standings because everyone we are fighting for the top-five had a bad race. On the last restart we were fourth to Marco and I really wanted a podium but in trying to get third I fell back to fifth so I am just a little mad with myself because I didn't get it. I almost had it! We can definitely do better but we cannot complain overall after a top-five finish. On my out lap from the last pit stop, I tried to push and I put two tires on the sand and I feel that is what cost us a position to Marco on the final stop because we had a perfect pit stop, the guys did a great job. It was me trying to push but in Turn 4 I went off a little and although I haven't seen the reply, I have to guess that is what cost us the spot at that moment. The car was deserving of a fifth place but it was no challenge for Scott and (Will) Power but I think everyone else was in a similar boat. I wasn't super-happy with the balance but I could see cars around me that were really struggling. We came into Japan wanting to strengthen our championship point and we were able to do that. Now we are heading to two oval races where we have high hopes for strong races."
JP de OLIVEIRA, No. 34 Ceremony Conquest Racing: "It's disappointing to retire as one of my goals for my first race was to finish the race but the experience overall was quite valuable. I think we were doing a good race and looking good for a top-10 finish. However this thing happened unfortunately and that's racing. I'd like to thank Ceremony for their support over the weekend and getting me into my first INDYCAR race".
GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 38 Service Central: "It was a frustrating day for the Service Central team. We were collected in an incident early in the race, which put us at the back of the field. No. 38 Service Central car has been fast all weekend and had the pace to finish up front. The guys did a great job all weekend. It's just a disappointing finish, especially as we head into the final two races. We needed good points today."CHARLIE KIMBALL, No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen: "It was a tough day for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. We had the pace all day and we were quick, we just got caught up in other people's wrecks. A top-10 finish was definitely in the cards today, it was just a shame to have contact with the No. 83 Novo Nordisk car. We're looking forward to the last two ovals and gaining good points."
AL UNSER JR., INDYCAR Race Steward: (Why was Sebastien Bourdais not penalized for his contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay): "The reason we deemed it a racing incident is because Bourdais made a mistake coming off of Turn 2. Ryan's choice to go on driver's right and then didn't give him enough room going around Turn 3.
HELIO CASTRONEVES, No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske: "This is certainly not the way I wanted to end the final IndyCar race in Japan. First, I have to thank Hitachi for coming onboard this weekend. It was an honor to carry their name on our Team Penske car while racing in Japan. I would also like to thank all the Japanese fans. They have been incredibly supportive over the years and it's unfortunate that we will not be racing here again in the immediate future. I have great memories of racing at this place. Now, for today's race - I am very disappointed in the result and the decision to penalize us at the end. I have said it before - the decisions by Race Control have been very inconsistent, this season especially, and I think today was just another example. I am really upset about it and I think it is very unfortunate for the fans and my fellow drivers. Now, we move on to Kentucky and we will be working hard to finish the season strong on the No. 3 Team Penske car."
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