Helio Castroneves wins Indy Japan 300 as IRL title chase tightens

By Jim Armstrong, AP
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Castroneves wins Indy Japan 300

MOTEGI, Japan — Pole-sitter Helio Castroneves won the Indy Japan 300 on Sunday to ensure the IndyCar series championship will come down to the final race of the year.

The Brazilian took the lead from Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe on a lap-118 pit stop and held on through lap 200 to earn his third win this season.

“It’s always a tough race here,” said Castroneves, who won at Motegi in 2006. “I trusted my car and trusted my team, which did a great job in the pit stops.”

Defending series champion Dario Franchitti of Scotland was second, followed by series points leader Will Power of Australia. Franchitti trails Power by 12 points heading into the final race of the season, Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Power, who dropped as far as ninth during the race, said he was pleased to make up ground, but was disappointed he didn’t finish ahead of Franchitti after starting third on the grid.

“The team did a great job to get me back up to third,” Power said. “I’ve never finished ahead of Dario on an oval. I’m getting closer and I really want to finish ahead of him next time.”

Franchitti, who also finished second on the 1.5-mile track in 2000 and 2009, beat Power to the finish line by 0.4997 of a second.

“Will did a great job to get back in the race but I managed to keep some length from him,” Franchitti said. “Now it’s all up to Homestead and I’ve just got to beat him.”

Castroneves led for 153 laps to clinch two bonus points for the most laps led. He is third in the overall standings with 501 points, but has been eliminated from the title chase along with New Zealand’s Scott Dixon, who finished sixth.

Briscoe, who started on the front row with Castroneves, was fourth. Danica Patrick, who won here in 2008 to became the first female winner in IndyCar history, was fifth.

Former Formula One driver Takuma Sato finished 12th for the best finish among three Japanese drivers.

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