Scott Dixon claimed his second win of the season

With one over-ambitious lunge, Dario Franchitti took a rather large step backwards in his quest for another IndyCar Series championship, turning a five-point lead into an 11-point deficit to his nearest challenger Will Power, as team-mate Scott Dixon took an emphatic victory in today’s Indy Japan 300, as our resident IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon writes…

With it, Power wrapped up the Mario Andretti road-course championship for the second consecutive year as Franchitti spent most of the afternoon catching and passing cars from the back of the field. Up front, Dixon was untouchable and never headed all afternoon.

Franchitti tips a furious Briscoe into a spin

After a poor qualifying effort by his high standards, Franchitti had worked hard to climb to fifth position by the time the first full-course caution came, caused by debutant João Paulo de Oliveira stopping on course. At the restart on Lap 26, Franchitti earned the ire of team boss Chip Ganassi by diving up the inside into Turn 1, punting Ryan Briscoe off along with himself and two of his three team-mates in Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball, who were both running very well in their own right. Earlier, De Oliveira did nothing to enhance his popularity in Japan by tangling with hometown hero Takuma Sato and sending the KV driver through the gravel trap.

Further negative light was shined on chief steward Brian Barnhardt as the only penalty Franchitti received for “causing an avoidable incident” was being sent to the back of the field, where he already was following this incident. Barnhardt’s consistency when issuing penalties, or lack thereof, has been a talking point all season long. Later in the race, Tony Kanaan received a drive-through penalty for nothing more than speeding in the pit lane.

A late stoush between Sébastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay, which also resulted in Vitor Meira beaching his machine in the gravel was all that kept the track marshals busy in the final stages of the race.

Back in pit lane at the end, Franchitti graciously admitted his fault, saying he saw a gap that quickly closed and which he wouldn’t have gone for if he had his time again. Fair enough.

Up front however, Dixon, who became a father for the second time a few days previously, became the only man to have won on both the oval and road course in Motegi, winning from Power, Marco Andretti, Alex Tagliani and Oriol Servià. Franchitti ended up finishing where he started in ninth place, however a late penalty issued by the stewards to Hélio Castroneves for overtaking under yellow flag conditions relegated the Brazilian to 22nd place, and promoted Franchitti to eighth.

With the conclusion of the road courses for another season, the focus turns to Kentucky Speedway in two weeks, where Power will find himself defending a points lead instead of chasing it. Twelve months previously, Franchitti had a larger points gap to Power than he does this year and successfully chased it down. This time, the momentum is not with him, which makes the task just that bit more psychologically difficult.


2011 Indy Japan Final Classification (63 laps):

Driver Team Laps Result
1. Scott Dixon NZL Target Chip Ganassi Racing 63 1:56:41.0107
2. Will Power AUS Team Penske 63 + 3.4375
3. Marco Andretti USA Andretti Autosport 63 + 4.4782
4. Alex Tagliani CDN Sam Schmidt Motorsports 63 + 5.5913
5. Oriol Servià ESP Newman/Haas Racing 63 + 6.1621
6. Sébastien Bourdais FRA Dale Coyne Racing 63 + 6.6399
7. JR Hildebrand USA Panther Racing 63 + 7.6856
8. Dario Franchitti GBR Target Chip Ganassi Racing 63 + 8.7436
9. Mike Conway GBR Andretti Autosport 63 + 9.0690
10. Takuma Sato JPN KV Racing Technology Lotus 63 + 9.3816
11. Danica Patrick USA Andretti Autosport 63 + 10.1187
12. Graham Rahal USA Service Central Chip Ganassi 63 + 10.6995
13. James Jakes GBR Dale Coyne Racing 63 + 11.4555
14. Simona de Silvestro SUI HVM Racing 63 + 12.0651
15. James Hinchcliffe CDN Newman/Haas Racing 63 + 12.5498
16. Giorgio Pantano ITA Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 63 + 14.4549
17. Tony Kanaan BRZ KV Racing Technology Lotus 63 + 15.8407
18. Hideki Mutoh JPN AFS / Sam Schmidt Motorsports 63 + 16.3024
19. Ana Beatriz BRZ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 63 + 20.5159
20. Ryan Briscoe AUS Team Penske 63 + 38.5887
21. EJ Viso VEN KV Racing Technology Lotus 63 + 1:39.0777
22. Hélio Castroneves BRZ Team Penske 62 1 lap behind
23. Charlie Kimball USA Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing 62 1 lap behind
24. Ryan Hunter-Reay USA Andretti Autosport 62 1 lap behind
DNF. Vitor Meira BRZ AJ Foyt Enterprises 61 Contact
DNF. João Paulo de Oliveira BRZ Conquest Racing 19 Mechanical

[Images via IZOD IndyCar Series]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.