The race at Motegi wasn't a barn-burner like some others, but it definitely held its share of excitement. Helio Castroneves came away with a dominating victory, Dario Franchitti claimed the first ever AJ Foyt Oval Trophy, and Will Power now leads Franchitti by only 12 points in the overall championship hunt going into October 2nd's finale at Homestead.
Here's a few more thoughts from the race:
-The Versus chat was a lot of fun. Thanks to Lindy Thackston, Pressdog, Roy Hobbson, and all the others that made the event so much fun.
-I'm not entirely sure Jack Arute knows what the equator is, exactly. Also, apparently, the humidity at Japan was about 546%, because dude was sweating buckets.
-Bertrand Baguette didn't make it too far in this one before crashing out. There went my dark horse pick. Baguette is mathematically out of the top rookie running now, but de Silvestro and Lloyd had issues of their own last night. Lloyd still leads de Silvestro by 18 points, and barring something big at Homestead, pretty much has this clinched.
-Simona de Silvestro's ride, by the way, had some tough going. It was apparent the HVM Racing crew did a good job just getting it together in time for the race. They had to retire due to some vibration, but those are the hidden stories, sleepless nights, and true struggles that are such a fascinating part of the sport.
-Another rookie, Takuma Sato, kept it together in front of a friendly crowd last night, finishing 12th in a respectable performance. I think we all thought he was putting it into the wall a couple of times, but if Taku was going to finish another race this year, this was the one for it to be. Another native son of Japan, Hideki Mutoh, finished 14th with his dad watching for the first time.
-Mario Moraes' accident was seriously scary. We've seen too many drivers who've backed it in suffer back injuries, and it looked like Moraes would be another unfortunate example. Glad, and a bit surprised to hear he was ok. Yes, another wreck for KV, but that one was all mechanical.
-Nice night for Andretti Autosport, whose drivers finished 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th. For much of the race, it looked like all four Andretti drivers would find a place in the Top 10, and they very nearly did. Danica Patrick's 5th place run was one of her better, more competitive rides this year.
-Speaking of the Top 10, good runs for Graham Rahal (8th) and Dan Wheldon (10th). Rahal looked like he was destined for a mid-pack finish for a bit, but did a nice job in the last stints picking it up. Wheldon's 10th place run means 3 Top 10 runs in a row after a horrid 25th place at Sonoma. That's Wheldon on ovals for you, though.
-Franchitti has systematically chipped away at Power's once-considerable points lead. We've seen some upsets to end the season before, but I still think going into Homestead, I've got to go with Dario. He won at Homestead last year, and if I still have him available in my fantasy league (I don't), that'd be my pick.
-You can debate with all rights the wisdom of having Motegi on the schedule at the date and time it currently inhabits, but it was great to see such a robust, enthusiastic crowd at an IndyCar race. It's cool knowing there's a community of IndyCar fans half a world away. Let's hope some of them can make it for the Centennial Indy 500.
We'll finish this season up at Homestead on October 2nd, but for now, this year's Indy Japan 300 is in the books.