MOTEGI, Japan – (Sunday, Sept. 18, 2012) – Scott Dixon held off Will Power — the new championship front-runner and repeat Mario Andretti Road Trophy titlist – on a restart with two laps left to win the Indy Japan and remain a factor in the IZOD IndyCar Series title chase.
Power’s 11th top-five finish of the season bumped his point total to 542, which is 11 points ahead of Dario Franchitti, who finished eighth. Dixon is 59 points out of first heading into the final two races — both on 1.5-mile ovals.
“It was a good day for us points-wise in the championship, but I’m really not worried about points right now,” said Power, who clinched the Mario Andretti Road Trophy for the top points producer on the 10 road/street courses. “I just need to keep finishing in front of the 10 car (Franchitti) the rest of the way and we’ll be fine. We’ll keep chipping away like we have been.”
The championship chase turned on a Lap 26 restart when Franchitti, who carried a five-point leader over Power into the 63-lap race on the 2.983-mile road course, swung to the right and made contact with the right-rear of the No. 6 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske car driven by Ryan Briscoe entering Turn 1.
Race Control levied an avoidable contact penalty on the reigning series champion, which sent him to the rear of the field (25th).
“It was a stupid move on my part,” said Franchitti, who also started ninth. “I did a lot hard work to get from ninth to fifth, and I’d been saving fuel the whole first stint. I thought there was a gap and Ryan was going wide on the entry and that was that. It was just a stupid move and we had a great fight back. We’ll shrug this one off, move forward and see if we can do better next (race).”
Dixon, who won by 3.4 seconds, picked up his 27th Indy car victory, breaking a tie with Rodger Ward and tying Johnny Rutherford for 11th on the all-time list. He has the distinction of winning on the 1.5-mile oval and now the 2.983-mile road course.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Team Target; they gave me a fantastic car. In some sections of the race I was just cruising trying to save fuel,” he said. “Great pit stops and fuel strategy, and everything was flawless.”
Marco Andretti finished third in the No. 26 Team Venom Energy car — his best road/street course placing of the season — and Alex Tagliani advanced 11 spots relative to his starting position to finish fourth in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Oriol Servia also made a major move — from 16th to fifth in the No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing car.