Scott Dixon (R) and Will Power celebrate
Photo courtesy INDYCAR
Scott Dixon won his second IZOD IndyCar Series race of the 2011 season in the 63-lap Indy Japan: The Final race on the Twin Ring Motegi 2.983-mile, 14-turn road course. It was his second win at this track – the other being on the earthquake-damaged 1.5-mile oval – and 27th of his career. Dixon led nearly from start to finish, with only second-placed Will Power taking the point during a pit stop exchange, and then for a single lap.
While the 3.4375-second margin of victory might make the race seem like a yawner, it was anything but that. With the two leaders turning laps within two seconds of their qualifying speeds throughout the early parts of the contest, the fight for first was contested between these two. “I have to give a lot of credit to the team; they gave me a fantastic car,” Dixon said. “In some portions of the race I was just cruising and trying to save fuel. Great pit stops and fuel strategy; everything was flawless.”
In finishing second Power took over the point lead from reigning champion Dario Franchitti, who had a less than stellar day. Power has an 11-point advantage on the Scot with two oval races remaining. “We tried everything we possibly could to get Dixon but he was very aggressive and he really deserved the win.”
For the second time, Power earned the Mario Andretti Road Trophy for the best overall road course results of the season. The Trophy, in its second year, has only been won by the Team Penske driver. “I just need to keep finishing in front of the 10 car (of Franchitti) the rest of the way and we’ll be fine. We’ll keep chipping away like we have.”
Franchitti finished in eighth spot after a race where he started ninth and had worked up to fifth before the first of three cautions. On the Lap 25 restart he made a banzai move on Ryan Briscoe in the first turn, spearing the Aussie and involving two of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates – both of whom were having stellar races to that point – Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball.
For his bonehead move, Franchitti received the penalty of moving to the rear of the field (where he had already landed after an ensuing pit stop), together with the ire of his team owner. Franchitti later apologized profusely: “It was a stupid move on my part. I did a lot of 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].”
Lost in all this excitement, Marco Andretti raced hard from tenth starting place to third at the checkers, followed by Alex Tagliani and Oriol Servia, who started 15th and 16, respectively. Sebastien Bourdais (who chrome-horned Ryan Hunter Reay in the closing stages), rookie JR Hildebrand, Franchitti, Mike Conway and Takuma Sato completed the top 10 today.
Sato, the sole regular Japanese driver in the IndyCar Series, got together with his teammate EJ Viso on the final restart but was able to continue. Viso recovered to finish 21st. Helio Castroneves, originally classified seventh was moved back to 22nd after he passed Hildebrand under a local caution on the final lap. A total of 22 cars were classified as finishers, all on the lead lap.
The Indy cars have this coming weekend off before reconvening at Kentucky Speedway for the penultimate race of the season. The series concludes the middle of October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
© 2011 Anne Proffit
This story originally appeared at Motor Authority.