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The Indy Japan 300 presented by Bridgestone was an Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race held at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. The 2008 race marked the historic first ever win for a woman driver in American open wheel racing when Danica Patrick of Andretti-Green Racing took the checkered flag.

Indy Japan 300
Twin Ring Motegi oval map.svg
VenueTwin Ring Motegi
First race1998
First IRL race2003
Last race2011
Distance304 miles (489 km)
Laps200
Previous namesFuji 200 (1966)
Budweiser 500k (1998)
Firestone Firehawk 500k (1999–2001)
Bridgestone Potenza 500k (2002)
Indy Japan 300 (2003-2010)
Indy Japan: The Final (2011)

The first American open-wheel race in Japan was held in 1966 at Fuji Speedway. Jackie Stewart won the Fuji Japan 200, which was held as an exhibition race, and no championship points were awarded. USAC did not return.

For a short period in the late 1980s and early 1990s the CART series explored the prospects of holding a race in Japan. Possible locations would be either Suzuka, Fuji, or a street course in another city. The FIA objected, citing conflicts with Formula One and other interests. In addition, rules were put into place requiring that any CART race outside of North America be held on an oval. Despite the objections, in 1991 CART made their first trip across the Pacific Ocean, and held a street race at Surfer's Paradise, Australia. The plans for a race in Japan were scrapped.

In 1994, Honda joined the CART series, and by 1996, was widely successful. Interest in holding a race in Japan resurfaced, and upon the completion of the Twin Ring Motegi oval, a race was first held in 1998 without FIA objection. The race continued as a Champ Car event through 2002. In 2003, Honda switched alliances to the Indy Racing League, and the race became an Indycar Series event. On February 9, 2011, it was announced that the series would not return to Motegi for the 2012 season.[1]

SchedulingEdit

From 2003-2006, the race marked the final IRL race before the Indianapolis 500. The extended travel time required typically found the race held the weekend before or after Easter, leaving one or two weeks of travel and rest time until practice began at Indianapolis in early May. This situation was widely unpopular for fans, and for television, because it left a large gap in the schedule, and disrupted continuity leading to the series' premier event. In 2007, the race at Kansas Speedway was moved immediately after Motegi to be the race preceding the Indianapolis 500.

In 2008, following the open wheel unification, the race served as part of the unique "doubleheader" weekend with the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Existing IRL teams raced at Motegi, and former Champ Car teams raced at Long Beach. For 2009, in an effort to reorganize the IndyCar schedule, the race was moved to September (swapping with the MotoGP event) on the Respect-for-the-Aged Day and autumnal equinox public holidays, also kept for 2010.

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it was announced that the 2011 event would be moved to the 2.98 mile road course (used by MotoGP) due to damage to the oval.[2] The 2011 event was the final running, a decision made before, and unrelated to, the earthquake and tsunami.

Past winnersEdit

Season Date Driver Team Chassis Engine Race Distance Race Time Average Speed
(mph)
Report
Laps Miles (km)
USAC Championship Car history (Non-championship, Fuji)
1966 October 9   Jackie Stewart Mecom Racing Team Lola Ford 80 216 (347.618) 2:03:59 104.525 Report
CART Champ Car history
1998 March 28   Adrian Fernández Patrick Racing Reynard Ford-Cosworth 201 311.349 (501.067) 1:57:12 159.393 Report
1999 April 10   Adrian Fernández Patrick Racing Reynard Ford-Cosworth 201 311.349 (501.067) 1:46:01 176.195 Report
2000 May 13   Michael Andretti Newman/Haas Racing Lola Ford-Cosworth 201 311.349 (501.067) 1:58:52 157.154 Report
2001 May 19   Kenny Bräck Team Rahal Lola Ford-Cosworth 201 311.349 (501.067) 1:44:48 178.113 Report
2002 April 27   Bruno Junqueira Chip Ganassi Racing Lola Toyota 201 311.349 (501.067) 2:00:05 155.447 Report
IRL IndyCar Series history
2003 April 13   Scott Sharp Kelley Racing Dallara Toyota 200 309.8 (498.574) 2:21:18 129.09 Report
2004 April 16   Dan Wheldon Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 1:49:48 166.114 Report
2005 April 30   Dan Wheldon Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 2:16:46 133.365 Report
2006 April 22   Hélio Castroneves Penske Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 1:59:01 153.248 Report
2007 April 21   Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 1:52:23 162.295 Report
2008 April 20   Danica Patrick Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 1:51:03 164.258 Report
2009 September 19   Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 1:51:38 163.401 Report
2010 September 18   Hélio Castroneves Penske Racing Dallara Honda 200 309.8 (498.574) 2:04:04 147.008 Report
2011 September 17   Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda 63 187.929 (302.442) 1:56:41 96.635 Report
  • Qualifying record: Dan Wheldon 201.165 mph (323.743 km/h), 2004
  • Race record: Dan Wheldon 166.114 mph (267.334 km/h), 2004
  • Because of Open-Wheel Reunification in 2008, the 2008 Indy Japan 300 race was a half-field race. "Transitioning" teams at Long Beach raced for full IRL points despite using the former Champ Car codes.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Lewandowski, Dave. "Sayonara, Twin Ring Motegi". IndyCar.com. Archived from the original on 11 February 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  2. ^ Series keeps Japan date, to run road course Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine