Helio Castroneves will make his 100th IndyCar Series start at this weekend's Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi, but will give himself little time to savour the moment as he intends to keep an eye on those rivals committed to racing in the clashing Champ Car finale at Long Beach.

A quirk of the inaugural unified IndyCar season means that the two groups that came together at the start of the campaign will race separately after a clash of dates between Motegi and Long Beach could not be resolved, with each race carrying the same number of points towards the championship. Castroneves, who owns the longest run of starts among current drivers, is committed to join his Penske team in Japan, but is determined to cross the Pacific in time to catch some of the action in California the next day.

"Wow, I can't believe I will be making my 100th IndyCar Series start this weekend," the Brazilian says, "When I look back on it, those races hold so many memories for me - from the two Indy wins to my seven poles last season... I'll tell you, it's been a great ride so far, but I'm looking forward to continuing my on-track success and hopefully adding a championship to my legacy."

With two races under his belt so far in 2008, Castroneves heads the IndyCar standings, but has yet to win a race this season. However, he heads to Motegi knowing that he and Penske have generally run well there since debuting in 1998. Two years ago, the Brazilian notched the first victory for Penske in Japan after leading a race-high 184 laps, and added to the pole he was gifted by rain that year with another, earned on merit, in 2007.

"Twin Ring Motegi is one of the most unique tracks we run on because each of the turns is different," he explains, "Normally, downshifting on an oval is a bad thing, but it's the only way to find success on this circuit. Needless to say, this track is quite a challenge for drivers and engineers.

"I've been lucky enough to start from the pole the past two years, and I was able to score my first win there in 2006. I must say that the fence was one of my favourites to climb because it was very sturdy. I hope I'm able to give it another try this season."

Even if he crowns his 100th start with another victory, Castroneves and Penske team-mate Ryan Briscoe will head straight to Long Beach to watch their fellow competitors race in the final event of the Champ Car World Series, as well as support their Penske Racing team-mates in the ALMS race.

"I'm really looking forward to attending the Long Beach race, as it's always been a fantastic event," Castroneves points out, "The last time I was there, in 2001, I was lucky enough to win the race from the pole, and it will be great to watch the other members of our series compete against one another this weekend. Hopefully, I'll be able to learn a few things that will help us when we all return in 2009."

ESPN broadcaster Jack Arute will also be making the effort to attend both events.

"This actually started as a lark, like 'wouldn't it be funny to do both Motegi and Long Beach'," he explained, "but then we started looking into it and saw that it could be done. Fortunately, I can sleep on airplanes with no problem, but I've asked one of the teams to have a cot in their pit at Long Beach, just in case I need it. And lots of coffee."



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