- Associated Press - Friday, September 16, 2011

MOTEGI, JAPAN (AP) - Danica Patrick doesn’t understand why a fuss is being made over her expressing concerns about racing this weekend near a nuclear reactor crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in March.

Patrick will take part in Indy Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi, which is 93 miles from the Fukushima-Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which leaked radiation after being severely damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. She said she was worried about the radiation levels in the food and water and the possibilities of aftershocks.

Patrick posted her only victory in the IndyCar series in Japan in 2008.

“Having concerns about coming here is completely understandable,” Patrick said Friday. “Now that I’m here, I’ve eaten the food, I go out running in the morning so I’m doing the things I normally do here and it seems like everything is fine.”

The quake damaged the 1 1/2-mile oval at Twin Ring, so Sunday’s race will be held instead on the recently repaved 14-turn road course.

Just after Patrick and the rest of the drivers arrived on Thursday, the Motegi circuit was jolted by a strong 6.2 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast that shook buildings at Motegi.

Patrick said she’s not the only one who has reservations about making the trip.

“I know a lot of people are concerned, a lot of us looked at each other and said, ‘Are you going to eat here? Did you eat sushi?’ We’ve all asked those questions but it seems fine.”

Patrick sidestepped reports that other drivers, in particular Tony Kanaan, had criticized her for speaking out about traveling to Japan.

“I didn’t really see that,” Patrick said. “I kind of heard something about it but don’t know what was said.”

Sunday’s race will be the last IndyCar series event in Japan. Mobilityland Corp., a wholly owned unit of Honda Motor Co., announced in February that due to the economic downturn, the 2011 race will be its last IndyCar race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.

After the earthquake, IndyCar series officials did consider canceling the race but decided to go ahead after Honda officials moved the race to Motegi’s road course while assuring IndyCar that travel to Japan was safe.

Despite all the commotion over her comments, Patrick said she will miss racing in Japan.

“I will always have so many great memories of Motegi,” Patrick said. “The people, the track, although we are on the road coarse this time, the food, the culture. You can tell the fans are really looking forward to this and are glad we are here.”

Sunday’s race will play a crucial role in deciding this year’s championship.

Team Penske’s Will Power won the Baltimore Grand Prix on Sept. 4 for his second straight victory and sixth of the season to move within five points of series leader Dario Franchitti with three races left.

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