Danica Patrick finally wins a race, makes history
She only led 3 laps, but it was the most important 3. Danica Patrick became the first female to win a major auto racing event at Twin Ring Motegi Sunday. Patrick, who turned 26 three weeks ago, won in her 50th IndyCar Series start after the three race leaders had to stop for a splash and go with 5 laps to go.
With six laps remaining, Dixon had a 3.6-second lead over Dixon. But the leader had to pit for a splash of fuel on Lap 195. Wheldon and Kanaan had to follow suit on Lap 196. That left the door open for Patrick and Castroneves, whose last pit stop came on Lap 148, to stretch it to the end without stopping.
Helio Castroneves, making his 100th IndyCar Series start, finished 5.8594 second behind and Scott Dixon was third. Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dan Wheldon, finished fourth and Tony Kanaan was fifth.
"First and foremost, I have to thank Motorola for all of their support. They've been a fantastic sponsor and I'm thrilled to give them their first win in several years. I also want to thank Go Daddy.com, XM, AirTran Airways, Honda and Firestone for all their support, as well. I also have to thank Michael (Andretti), Kim (Green) and Kevin (Savoree). They've believed in me since the very beginning and this validates their decision. To get my first win is great. To do it at Honda's track is even better."
"I think Danica is such a fantastic person and I'm thrilled for her that the monkey is finally off of her back," said Michael Andretti, co-owner of Andretti Green Racing. "We have all believed in her and she proved today that she is a winner. Frankly, I think this is the first of many."
"We led for a lot of laps but came up short," Dixon said. "But congratulations to Danica for her first victory."
Patrick, who started from the third row and made her final pit stop on lap 148, stayed close to the leaders throughout the race.
Patrick went from fourth to second place on lap 197 after Wheldon and Kanaan went into the pit on lap 196. She was as low as eighth place on the 189th of 200 laps.
"With five laps to go, I was saving fuel," Castroneves said. "When Danica passed me, I realized she was the leader. She did a great job, passed me fair and square and that shows you how competitive our series is."
This is Danica Patrick's first IndyCar Series victory. Her previous best finish was second at Detroit in September 2007. She s the first female driver to win an Indy Racing League event. She previously shared the record with Sarah Fisher, who finished second at Miami in 2001.
Wheldon's fourth place finish was the first time he finished outside the top-two at Motegi since 2003.
Ed Carpenter finished sixth, his best finish at Motegi in five starts.
INDY JAPAN 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
Winner's average speed: 164.258 mph
Time of race: 1:51:02.6739
Margin of victory: 5.8594 seconds
Cautions: 4 caution flags for 29 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 4 drivers
Lap leaders: Castroneves 1-93, Dixon 94-194, Wheldon 195-196, Castroneves 197-197, Patrick 198-200.
Point standings: Castroneves 112, Dixon 100, Patrick 98, Kanaan 89, Wheldon 85, Carpenter 70, Andretti 65, Hunter-Reay 65, Mutoh 59, Manning 58.
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