IndyCar To Run At Motegi Road Course This Season

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 3 2011

The welcome to Motegi, Japan for the IZOD IndyCar Series' annual visit is always warm and colorful. This fall, the welcome will be to the road course at the Japanese facility. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Twin Ring Motegi’s 2.98-mile natural terrain road-course will play host to the IZOD IndyCar Series’ ninth and final visit to Japan this fall.

The Indy Japan 300 on Sept. 18 originally was scheduled for the 1.5-mile, egg-shaped oval that sustained damage during the March earthquakes. Raised ridges to the track’s surface will prevent the series’ open-wheel cars from competing on the oval.

Owned by Mobilityland Corp., Twin Ring Motegi opened in 1997.

“In conjunction with Mobilityland, we have made the decision to move forward with our race in Motegi after closely monitoring the on-going situation in Japan for several months,” Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR, said in a statement Friday from Indianapolis. “After weighing a variety of options, we felt it was best to move the race to the road course. We understand that Japan is steadily moving forward with reconstruction and we look forward to entertaining our strong fan base at Motegi with our inaugural run on the road course.”

IndyCar Series officials announced earlier this year that the Sept. 18 race would be its final event at the facility, which is home base for engine-supplier Honda. The track also houses the three-story Honda Collection Hall museum, considered the manufacturer’s “crown jewel.” The facility features more than 250 racing and production motorcycles that Honda has spent the last 35 years collecting and restoring.

“We have decided to change the racing track for the Indy Japan 300 this year to the road-course,” Hiroshi Oshima, president of Mobilityland Corp., said in a statement. “We had examined the option of restoration work to the oval, but considering the large scale public works impact on society in this circumstance and the cost entailed, we felt it was best to move the race to the road course.

“Though we have been forced to change what we have been doing by the earthquake disaster, we will make sure our fans experience another exciting race.”

Helio Castroneves of Team Penske (2006, 2010) joined Dan Wheldon as a two-time winner of the event last September. Wheldon won the race back-to-back in 2004-05 while driving for Andretti Green Racing.

Motegi also is significant in that it was the site of Danica Patrick’s breakthrough series victory for Andretti Green Racing on April 20, 2008. Patrick led only three laps en route to becoming the first female driver to win a major closed-course motorsports event.

Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing (2009), Tony Kanaan of Andretti Green Racing (2007) and Scott Sharp (2003) also have won at TRM. Ironically, Sharp’s victory for Kelley Racing was scored in a Dallara powered by Toyota, Honda’s corporate rival.

Wheldon, who won his second Indianapolis 500 on Sunday in a one-off ride with Bryan Herta Autosport, is the only IndyCar driver to claim the championship (2005) after winning at Motegi.

Indianapolis 500 fans reordering or applying online for tickets to the 2012 edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at www.imstix.com between today and 11:59 p.m. on Monday, June 13, will be registered to win a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible Pace Car replica. The 2012 Indy 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 27, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The grand prize Camaro SS Convertible Pace Car is a mirror image of the model in which four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt Jr. paced the historic 100th anniversary Indy 500 to the green flag last Sunday.

One of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ drivers will present the keys to the winner at IMS.

The color combination of the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible Pace Car is similar to the design used on 1969 Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car replicas _ cars which have become among the most popular in the collector world. The 2011 Camaro SS Convertible is fitted with an equipment package featuring a 400-horsepower V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Retail value of the Camaro is approximately $53,432.

Another bonus for fans who reorder or apply online for 2012 Indy 500 tickets will be a pair of tickets for practice days at either the 2011 Brickyard 400 or Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS. Brickyard 400 practice day is Friday, July 29, while Red Bull Indianapolis GP practice day is Friday, Aug. 26. Children 12-and- under will be admitted free on both days.

For complete rules, free mail-in method of entry, prizes and odds, visit http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/pacecarsweepstakes or call (800) 822-INDY.

Tickets for the inaugural Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, June 11, remain available, including a special “2-for-$49” option.

Round 6 of the IZOD IndyCar Series in Fort Worth will feature a twin-race format of 114-lap/275-kilometer events starting at approximately 7:45 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., (CDT). Special entertainment during the intermission between the feature events will include a unique, random draw for starting positions in the second race.

Tickets, which begin at $31, can be purchased by calling (817) 215-8500 or visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 3 2011
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