Team Penske Drivers Avoid Practice Rain Drops in Japan

April 17, 2008

Motegi, Japan -- Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe were fourth and seventh, respectively, in rain-interrupted practice sessions Thursday in preparation for the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi.

More rain is in the forecast for Friday‘s qualifying session. If qualifying is rained out, drivers will line up according to current IndyCar Series standings for Saturday‘s race. Castroneves leads the 2008 standings after two races.

Castroneves was clocked at 27.3556 seconds -- 200.032 mph -- in the No. 3 Team Penske Honda/Dallara around the tricky 1.52-mile oval, which ranked fourth behind Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon.

“Today was an interesting day,” Castroneves said. “We started off good and we faced a little problem. That’s why we weren’t able to do as many laps and obviously the rain made it a little harder on everyone. But right now, we have a good car for the race and we’ll see what happens with the weather.”

Briscoe, who’s returning to the track for the first time since 2005, spent most of Thursday’s sessions reacquainting himself with the unusual circuit. The Motegi oval is not symmetrical. Turns 1 and 2 have a wider turning radius than the sharper third and fourth turns, but Briscoe managed a fast lap of 199.244 mph in the No. 6 Team Penske Honda/Dallara.

“We still have a bit of work to do, but it’s been good for me just learning the track again,” Briscoe said. “It’s a pretty difficult circuit. We’re working on the setup, making gains and moving up in the field a little bit as we go. I’m really happy at how we finished after day one.”

Qualifying is set for 12:30 a.m. ET Friday. The race is scheduled to begin shortly after 12 a.m. Saturday and will be shown live on ESPN2. ESPN will telecast the race on a tape-delayed basis Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.