The Indy Japan 300 has special meaning for IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Briscoe and Danica Patrick.
Briscoe can wrap up his first championship in the race on the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi course. The Team Penske driver has a 25-point lead over Dario Franchitti going into the next-to-last event of the 2009 season.
Patrick made history in this race last year — when it was run earlier in the season — when she won and became the first woman to win an IndyCar event. She’d like to win her second this week.
Briscoe hiked his lead in the point totals by edging 2008 champ Scott Dixon in the last race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Dixon trails Briscoe by 33 points; he and Franchitti are the only drivers that have a mathematical chance of catching or passing Briscoe.
Briscoe has won three times and is the 13th leader in point totals this season and being on the pole or starting up front could help him move close to the title.
In the first 15 races, the winner has started first five times, second three times, third twice and fourth five times.
Briscoe has won twice on 1.5-mile ovals and has led 321 laps. Dixon has led 290 laps on similar courses and has won once.
“We have seen how the championship can turn around this year. I just have to stay focused and try to beat those guys,” Briscoe says of is Target Chip Ganassi challengers.
Dixon has raced at the track in Japan since 2001, doing it with CART before joining the Indy Racing League.
“It is definitely one of [our] toughest tracks. It is shaped like an egg. Turns 3 and 4 are very difficult,” says Dixon.
Helio Castroneves has won at the track and agrees with Dixon.
“It is a very challenging oval with two different ends. It is difficult to get the setup right to handle well at times,” he said.
“Obviously, we are still in the fight for the championship but Ryan did another great job [in the last race]. We are going to have to make something happen in the last two races,” says Franchitti.
Patrick says she was fortunate to win at the track last year. “The characteristics that I like in a car work well there. That is all I can really pinpoint,” she said.
“I am not picky … I will take a win anywhere,” she added.
The 2009 season ends Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami.
• • •
Pit stops — Nine drivers will be making their first start in the race at Twin Ring Motegi.
• Kosuke Matsuura will be in his first IRL race since 2007, driving for Conquest Racing. Stanton Barrett will be in his first race since the third race at Kansas in April.
• Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon are the former race winners in the field.
• Fans can view the race free on www.indycar.com
Patrick returning to site of first victory, Briscoe nearing title
The Indy Japan 300 has special meaning for IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Briscoe and Danica Patrick.
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