Scott Dixon has moved to the top of the Indy Racing League standings with just one race remaining after an error by erstwhile leader Ryan Briscoe at Motegi pushed him onto the back foot.
Briscoe came into the race with a 32 point lead over Dixon, but saw the margin overhauled when he misjudged his exit from the pit lane and ran over a time line cone, forcing him to pit again and lose touch with the leaders. He would be classified in 18th position.
Dixon, meanwhile, romped to victory from pole position to eke ahead of Briscoe with only the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway remaining.
The title fight remains a three-way fight, however, with Dixon only five points up on Dario Franchitti, the Scot shadowing the New Zealander all the way to the chequered flag to complete a Ganassi 1-2 – a first for the team in Japan.
Although he couldn't make the most of a late caution period, caused when Ryan Hunder-Reay crashed, Franchitti remains just a mere five points adrift of Dixon, with Briscoe a further three points behind.
"Tremendous day for Team Target," said Dixon. “It's what we needed to do. It's a track I've always wanted to win at. I remember coming here in the early years and competing for different engine manufacturers and how much emphasis is put on this race. Definitely a good day for points and I'm very happy."
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing also had reason to be pleased, with Graham Rahal climbing onto the podium in third position, the youngster ensuring the second closest 1-3 finish of all-time as he chased his more experienced rivals over the line. He was joined in the upper echelons of the standings by team-mate Oriol Servia, the Spaniard performing well on his less favoured oval setting.
An early refuelling problem prevented front row sitter Mario Moraes from converting that into a second consecutive podium finish, although the KVRT driver was able to put on an impressive spurt in the latter stages to climb to a fine fifth place finish having run as low as 18th.
It put him ahead of 2008 Motegi winner Danica Patrick, who in turn held off her team-mate Marco Andretti to lead the AGR charge. Dan Wheldon, top rookie Raphael Matos and Helio Castroneves – recovering from starting at the back of the grid – completed the top ten.