For the second time in the last three years, steady rain at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Japan prevented qualifying on Friday. The starting lineup for Saturday’s Bridgestone Indy Japan 300 will be set according to team entrant points gained in the first two races this year.
As a result, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves will start on the pole at Motegi for the third consecutive year. Castroneves, the current drivers’ point leader, qualified on the pole in 2007 and was awarded the top spot due to rain in 2006. Scott Dixon, winner of the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will start on the outside of the front row in second.
For the first time in a major racing series, the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity will serve as “Official Car” for the Indy Japan 300. Utilizing Honda’s compact and efficient V Flow fuel cell stack, the Clarity will pace the 18-car starting field prior to the start of Saturday’s 200-lap race.
Defending race winner Tony Kanaan, the quickest driver in Thursday’s opening practice sessions, will now start third, with teammate Marco Andretti along side in fourth. Two-time Motegi race winner Dan Wheldon will round out the top five starters..
Saturday’s 200-lap event, the third round of the 18-race 2008 IndyCar Series, starts at 1:00 p.m. local time (12:00 a.m. EDT), with live television coverage on ESPN2, and re-broadcast at 3:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN. Weather forecasts call for generally improving conditions, but a chance of rain remains.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) starting from pole:
“I’m sitting in the right [championship]
spot and I’ll take it. I didn’t run many laps on Thursday [due to a suspension problem in the first practice],
but in the last few years we have been very fast here, and I feel we can continue. Hopefully, we can win
from the front just like we did in 2006.”