Japan pole is leader’s domain

first_imgSam Hornish Jr., driver for Team Penske, crashed during the practice session. He was checked and cleared by the medical staff at the track and will be able to race. His team will use a back-up car. “It’s unfortunate, but, hopefully, we can put all the pieces back together and make sure we have a car ready to race,” Hornish said. “We will see what happens, but it is a lot more work for us.” Herta, coming off a fourth-place finish April 2 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, completed 20 laps in the practice session. “I’m pretty happy with the car, but I really only did one outing,” Herta said. “During our second run, the track went yellow, and during our third run, it started to rain, and that concluded our session. I don’t feel like we got much done, but the good thing is the car started in a good place, so I’ll feel good overnight.” Rookie driver Jeff Simmons will be making his IRL debut in Japan with Rahal Letterman Racing. Simmons will be in the No. 17 entry, previously driven by Paul Dana, who died during practice for the season opener in Florida. “These are not the circumstances that I would like this opportunity to come about, but Paul had the same dreams as me,” said Simmons, who will drive the car the remainder of the season. “Like him, this is an opportunity that I’ve worked so long and hard for.” Simmons, who has two IRL IndyCar Series races to his credit, is one of three rookies in the Twin Ring Motegi race. Irwindale Speedway: Three area drivers posted top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Late Model division opener. Travis Thirkettle of Newhall finished third, Chris Houwen of Acton was sixth and Aaron Staudinger of Canyon Country was 10th Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway. Defending track class champion Tim Huddleston of Agoura Hills won the first race the Late Model season. The Late Model drivers return to the track for tonight’s second race of the season. The NASCAR Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, West Coast Pro Trucks and Pure Stocks also are scheduled to race. Rich De Long III of Newhall is seventh in points after two races in the Super Stocks division. Palmdale’s Bob Wright is 10th in points in the West Coast Pro Trucks standings. Races start at 7. Tim Haddock covers motor sports for the Daily News [email protected] (818) 713-3715 INDY RACING LEAGUE Indy Japan 300 Site: Motegi, Japan. Schedule: Today, race (ESPN, 9 a.m., tape). Track: Twin Ring Motegi (oval, 1.5 miles, 10-degree banking in turns). Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps. Last race: Helio Castroneves won the April 2 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg when Scott Dixon’s fuel strategy came up short. Last year: Dan Wheldon, driving a Honda-powered Dallara, won his second consecutive Japan 300 after inheriting the lead on lap 198 when Tomas Scheckter ran out of gas. Fast facts: Helio Castroneves leads the IRL standings with 93 points after finishing second in the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 and winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. … Wheldon is seeking three straight wins at Twin Ring Motegi. Next race: Indianapolis 500, May 28. On the Net: http: www.indycar.com – Associated Press160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Helio Castroneves will start on the pole for today’s Indy Racing League race in Japan after qualifying was suspended by rain. The starting order for the race was determined by championship points. Scott Dixon will start second, and defending race champion Dan Wheldon will start third. Valencia’s Bryan Herta, a driver for Andretti Green racing, will start seventh. IRL drivers had a chance to take their cars out on the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan for practice laps Thursday, but rain delayed the start of the session and ended it a few minutes ahead of schedule. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventHerta was sixth-fastest during the practice session in preparation for today’s Bridgestone Indy Japan 300. His best lap was 198.894 mph. “Despite the weather, we at least got to feel the car,” said Herta, a Hart High of Newhall graduate and driver of the No. 7 Honda-powered entry for Andretti Green Racing. “It is supposed to be cooler on race day, but maybe not this cool.” The temperature at the start of the practice session was 55 degrees, and the track temperature was 78 degrees. Marlboro Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves had the top speed, 201.223 mph, and Herta’s Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan was second-fastest at 200.008 mph. They were the only drivers to surpass 200 mph in practice. “The car felt very good early in the session, which is when we recorded our best lap,” said Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 entry. “Then the track went away as the temperature dropped.” last_img read more