Motegi IndyCar race postponed
For the first time in its six-year history as an IndyCar Series event, rain and track surface moisture have forced a one-day postponement of the Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan. The 200-lap race is now scheduled to run in its entirety starting at 11a.m. local time Sunday (10 p.m. Saturday EDT).
|Crews try in vain to stop the weepers|
Nearly continuous rain on Friday forced the cancellation of all of Friday's on-track sessions, including qualifying. The starting lineup for Saturday's Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 then was set according to team entrant points gained in the first two races this year.
The only previous postponement in Motegi's 10-year history took place in 2000, when showers on Saturday forced the race to run on Sunday, an event won by Michael Andretti.
|An all-day rain Saturday soaked the track and the soil under the track|
Although the rain came to a halt early this morning, the moisture-soaked ground under the track forced water to the surface of the 1.5-mile oval, creating persistent "weepers" is several locations. Series and track workers labored throughout the day attempting to drain the water, but IndyCar officials were finally forced to postpone the race at 3 p.m. local time.
Weather forecasts call for generally improving conditions through Sunday, but a chance of rain remains in the morning hours.
Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions of the sanctioning Indy Racing League and the race's chief steward, twice consulted drivers regarding the safety of the racing surface before asking Mutoh and Roger Yasukawa to address the crowd.
"We never got a situation where the racetrack was presentable and safe to race on," Barnhart said. "The drivers would not have been comfortable and been in a position to where we could have done anything today. We had about three spots we were working on: the acceleration lane coming out of the pits in Turn 2, the deceleration lane going into the pits in (Turn) 3 and then a large section of the racetrack in Turn 4."
Track officials continued to work on the affected areas throughout the afternoon and into the evening, sucking water out of holes drilled into the asphalt to relieve pressure. The forecast is for improving weather conditions, and the sanctioning body built in the rain date into its schedule.
Rain had canceled qualifications for the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award, which gave Helio Castroneves the pole start based on entrant points. It's the third year in a row that he'll start from the pole in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Under similar weather circumstances in '06, Castroneves was awarded the pole based on entrant points. He led 184 laps en route to the 6.3-second victory over Dan Wheldon.
Scott Dixon, who won the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, also will start on Row 1. Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti will share Row 2, while Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick will be on Row 3.
Carpenter will be joined on Row 4 by teammate A.J. Foyt IV. Hideki Mutoh and Ryan Hunter-Reay, making their first IndyCar Series starts at Twin Ring Motegi, will be on the fifth row. Kanaan topped the full day of practice with a quick lap of 27.2453 seconds (200.842 mph).
The only previous postponement in Twin Ring Motegi's 10-year history took place in 2000, when showers forced the race to run on Sunday, an event won by Michael Andretti.
For the first time in a major racing series, the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity is scheduled to serve as "Official Car" for the Indy Japan 300. Utilizing Honda's compact and efficient V Flow fuel cell stack, the Clarity will pace the 18-car starting field.