Motegi Friday Notebook
This is the seventh IndyCar Series event held at Twin Ring Motegi. Danica Patrick is the defending race winner. Helio Castroneves won the Peak Performance Pole Award last year. Four former IndyCar Series winners at Twin Ring Motegi -Dan Wheldon (2004-2005), Helio Castroneves (2006), Tony Kanaan (2007) and Patrick (2008) - are entered.
Mario Moraes carries a load of momentum into the Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi.
Moraes, who arrived in Japan last weekend to adjust to the 13-hour (from Eastern Daylight Time) time difference and experience the culture, is among nine IndyCar Series drivers who will compete on the 1.5-mile oval for the first time. At Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 29, Moraes recorded an IndyCar Series-high third-place finish in the No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KV Racing Technology car. He finished fourth on the Infineon Raceway road course a week earlier.
"After the last two ovals (Kentucky and Chicagoland), we know we have a very fast car and even though the layout of the track in Motegi is different I am confident we can have a good race," he said.
The race will mark the first race at Twin Ring Motegi featuring a unified field. In the wake of unification of open-wheel racing under the IndyCar Series banner in 2008, the race dates for Twin Ring Motegi and Long Beach fell on the same weekend. The IndyCar Series regulars competed in Japan while the transitioning teams participated in the Champ Car finale.
E.J. Viso traveled to Tokyo to spend some time with a Venezuelan.
The HVM Racing driver attended a baseball game Sept. 13 between the Seibu Lions and the Orix Buffalos, where he met Orix infielder Alex Cabrera.
"It was a fantastic experience going to a baseball game outside the U.S. or Venezuela," Viso said. "Japanese fans are very passionate and the game was very close so we had some nice singing and shouting by both sides' fans."
A.J. Foyt decided to follow his doctor's advice and not make the trip to Japan after suffering an infection in his leg last month from which he has not completely recovered.
"I wanted to go to Japan and felt like I needed to go but my doctor didn't think it was a good idea because of the possibility of blood clots from the long flight," he said. "My leg is still pretty swollen and they want me to go into the hospital to get it treated and keep it elevated but I won't do that. I'd go crazy lying around in there for four to five days. Besides, I have too much to do."
Team director Larry Foyt will be the race strategist for Ryan Hunter-Reay.
For 2009, Firestone Racing engineers have developed a unique tire specification for the Motegi event. These Firestone Firehawk racing tires use our superspeedway (Texas, Kansas, Chicagoland) construction with compounds that are close to the grip and wear levels found in our Indianapolis 500 tires. Firestone Engineers have determined that this is the best formula for the unique, egg-shaped oval at Twin Ring Motegi.
Stanton Barrett's seat for the No. 98 Team 3G entry grew cold over the past four months and 11 races.
Since Barrett crashed in Turn 2 during a practice session at The Milwaukee Mile, Jaques Lazier on the ovals and 2008 Firestone Indy Lights runner-up Richard Antinucci on the road/street circuits have taken the wheel. Barrett returns to the IndyCar Series for the Indy Japan 300 this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi.
"I am thrilled to be back in IndyCar for the Japan race and plan on coming back strong," said Barrett, whose high finish of his inaugural IndyCar Series season is 12th in the opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Interush will be the primary sponsor, with a unique associate sponsor on the No. 98 car in Bantam Books' "Family Affair," a novel by Caprice Crane.
"I am excited to have this opportunity with publisher Bantam Books having "Family Affair" as one of our sponsors," said Barrett, a longtime and sought-after stuntman. "It is very exciting to share three things I love and have a passion for - the movie business, great creative novels and auto racing. For the first time in my career, I have the opportunity to run a sponsorship from someone who is part of the film industry, which I have worked in for over 22 years."
Luczo Dragon Racing rookie Raphael Matos has finished ninth (scoring 64 points) in each of the past three races (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Infineon Raceway road course, Chicagoland Speedway oval). The drivers with more point in those races: championship points leader Ryan Briscoe (134), Dario Franchitti (120), Scott Dixon (109), Hideki Mutoh (72), Mario Moraes (67) and Graham Rahal (66).
Graham Rahal will have some valued assistance when making his first start on the challenging 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Martin Pare was the engineer on Danica Patrick's winning car in 2008.
"I sure expect the McDonald's team to be competitive; our target is top five in the championship," said Pare of Rahal, who enters the penultimate IndyCar Series race of the season eighth in the standings. "It will be challenging but that's why we do this right?"
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Oriol Servia will work with a new race engineer this weekend as Todd Malloy and his wife recently welcomed the birth of their second child, Ardyn. Senior engineer Craig Hampson will be the race engineer for the No. 06 car.
Firestone Racing engineers have developed a unique tire specification for the Twin Ring Motegi event. The Firestone Firehawk racing tires use the superspeedway (Texas, Kansas, Chicagoland) construction with compounds that are close to the grip and wear levels found in the Indianapolis 500 tires.
Honda Performance Development has set the overtake assist system for 20 pushes for a duration of 15 seconds each. There is a 10-second recharge interval.
IndyCar Series driver Milka Duno has been selected as a Special Achievement Honoree in the sports category as part of the NCLR ALMA Awards (8-10 p.m. EDT Sept. 18 on ABC).
Duno also will co-present the Male Actor/TV Comedy award with Rainn Wilson from the TV show "The Office."
The 11th NCLR ALMA Awards, co-hosted by film and television actors Eva Longoria Parker and George Lopez, pays tribute to Latino heritage in film, music, television and sports. September is National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Eleven Honda dealerships from Motegi to Tokyo have an interesting tie-in with the Indy Japan 300. Eleven drivers promoting the IndyCar Series race at Twin Ring Motegi have been featured through in-store multimedia platforms with a race ticket component. Take a test drive and purchase a ticket. Stop by for an oil change and purchase a ticket. The dealership name is in Japanese letters under the Honda logo on the engine cover.
Ticket-holders will occupy grandstand sections specific to their driver/dealership, with an add-on of having a group photo taken with the driver before the 200-lap race. More than 1,000 tickets were sold through the program.