Castroneves on pole at Motegi

Helio Castroneves didn’t have to do anything to earn the pole for the Indy Japan 300. That was taken care of during the first two IndyCar Series races of the season.

Castroneves will lead the field to the green flag at the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval after IndyCar Series officials based the starting grid on entrant points when qualifications for the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award were rained out.

 “I’m sitting in the right spot in the championship to be in this situation and I’ll take it," Castroneves said. "We feel we have a consistent car. In the last few years we were very fast here, and I feel we can continue (that). Once you have a good car and (qualifications) are rained out, you prevent a lot of competitors to improve. Hopefully, we can do what we did in 2006.”

            It’s the third year in a row that Castroneves will start from the pole in the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Under similar weather circumstances in ’06, Castroneves was awarded the pole based on entrant points. He led 184 laps en route to the 6.3-second victory over Dan Wheldon.

            Scott Dixon, who won the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, will be making his third front-row start at TRM. He was on the pole in 2003, led 45 laps, but finished 15th because of a crash.

            Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti will share Row 2, while Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick will be on Row 3. Vision Racing’s Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV will start from Row 4. Hideki Mutoh and Ryan Hunter-Reay, making their first IndyCar Series starts at Twin Ring Motegi, will be on the fifth row.

            Kanaan topped a full day of practice April 17 with a quick lap of 27.2453 seconds (200.842 mph). Castroneves was fourth-quick (27.3556; 200.032).

            The rain probably impacted Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe the most. He was seventh-quick in practice (27.4638 seconds; 199.244 mph) but will start 15th based on 19th and 23rd finishes (DNFs because of contact). Roger Yasukawa, making his season debut in the No. 77 Interush/Wellman Racing car for Beck Motorsports, will start 18th.

***             The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a unique weekend - two races on two continents - the Indy Japan 300 on April 19 at Twin Ring Motegi and the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 20 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. Points will be awarded for both races with IndyCar Series drivers participating in Japan and Champ Car World Series competitors in Long Beach. The Motegi race will be telecast in High Definition at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2 on April 18 and re-aired at 3 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, April 18 at 11:30 p.m. (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The Long Beach race will air on April 20 at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN2. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 27 with the Kansas Lottery 100 at Kansas Speedway.


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