Castroneves dominates at Motegi

Helio Castroneves took his second straight IndyCar Series race win with an utterly dominant performance at Motegi

Castroneves dominates at Motegi

In the Penske driver's wake, Dario Franchitti trimmed Will Power's championship lead to 12 points by beating the Australian to second - setting up a tight finale with 50 points available for victory at Homestead in two weeks' time. The result also wrapped up the new-for-2010 oval crown for Franchitti.

Castroneves always had this race under control, leading by as much as five seconds at one stage as Ryan Briscoe (Penske) and Franchitti (Ganassi) disputed second - running wheel to wheel for several laps in the opening stint.

The only time Castroneves appeared to be under threat was after the third yellow, when Raphael Matos (De Ferran Dragon) and Hideki Mutoh (Newman/Haas) stayed out while the rest of the field pitted and jumped to the front.

Castroneves then had a slow restart and was pounced on by Briscoe and Franchitti into Turn 1, with the reigning champion sweeping from fifth to third in a single three-abreast move.

But it did not take long for both Penske drivers to re-pass Franchitti and then pick their way to the front past Mutoh and Matos.

Briscoe managed to get a 3s cushion over Castroneves during this period, but once in clear air the Brazilian wiped that deficit out. He then leaped back ahead in the next stops and controlled the race thereafter, ultimately winning by a comfortable 4.5s.

Franchitti and Briscoe continually exchanged second place both in the pits and on track, until Power slipped past Briscoe for third shortly after the last restart with 31 laps to go.

The points leader had drifted back from his third place on the grid and was as low as 10th for a while - losing a lot of ground on lap 40 when he slowed prematurely for a yellow before it was officially called.

Power edged back into contention though and, helped by an excellent final pitstop, took his first ever oval podium. He had a look at passing Franchitti as they lapped Milka Duno's Dale Coyne car with four laps to go, but could not complete the move and settled for third.

Danica Patrick had a strong run to fifth in the leading Andretti Autosport car, just ahead of Scott Dixon (Ganassi) and Tony Kanaan (Andretti).

Newman/Haas' Graham Rahal charged through from the midfield to eighth, winning a late three-way fight with Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) and Dan Wheldon (Panther).

The Motegi crowd appeared significantly bigger than in previous years - a rise which must be attributed to the popularity of Takuma Sato. The KV driver had a solid race to 12th, taking only his second finish on an oval and his second-best result of a promising but inconsistent year. Fellow local favourites Mutoh and Roger Yasukawa (Conquest) were 14th and 20th.

The race saw several heavy accidents, with apparent car problems sending Mario Moraes (KV) and Alex Lloyd (Dale Coyne) into the wall. While Lloyd - already running 16 laps down after throttle linkage issues - immediately hopped out of his wrecked, burning Dallara unhurt, Moraes has been flown to hospital for checks, having reported back pain following his violent impact earlier in the race. He remained conscious and alert while being carefully extricated from the car and placed on a stretcher.

What could be Paul Tracy's last run with Dreyer & Reinbold ended with a damaged car following a brush with the wall, and Bertrand Baguette crashed his Conquest Dallara on only the second lap.

Pos  Driver               Team                    Time/Gap
 1.  Helio Castroneves    Penske             2h04m04.4780s
 2.  Dario Franchitti     Ganassi                + 4.5746s
 3.  Will Power           Penske                 + 5.0743s
 4.  Ryan Briscoe         Penske                 + 6.4825s
 5.  Danica Patrick       Andretti               + 7.6057s
 6.  Scott Dixon          Ganassi                + 8.3641s
 7.  Tony Kanaan          Andretti               + 9.4093s
 8.  Graham Rahal         Newman/Haas           + 11.7163s
 9.  Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti              + 12.2125s
10.  Dan Wheldon          Panther               + 12.4720s
11.  Marco Andretti       Andretti              + 15.5007s
12.  Takuma Sato          KV                    + 16.0693s
13.  Alex Tagliani        FAZZT                 + 17.6774s
14.  Hideki Mutoh         Newman/Haas           + 18.2811s
15.  EJ Viso              KV                    + 18.7349s
16.  Justin Wilson        Dreyer & Reinbold     + 19.4293s
17.  Vitor Meira          Foyt                  + 20.1047s
18.  Raphael Matos        De Ferran Dragon      + 21.2346s
19.  Milka Duno           Dale Coyne              + 3 laps
20.  Roger Yasukawa       Conquest                + 5 laps

Retirements:

     Alex Lloyd           Dale Coyne         131 laps
     Paul Tracy           Dreyer & Reinbold  114 laps
     Simona de Silvestro  HVM                85 laps
     Mario Moraes         KV                 66 laps
     Bertrand Baguette    Conquest           1 lap
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