The autograph session at Twin Ring Motegi is unlike any other on the IZOD IndyCar Series circuit.
In exchange for a photograph and a signature, some fans present gifts to their favorite drivers. Most gifts consist of photos, books, cookies and other sweets, and traditional Japanese items such as chopsticks or fans. But some fans go above and beyond the call in an effort to show respect.
One fan gave Marco Andretti a hand-made model of a HondaJet, complete with Honda logos, while Tony Kanaan received a 1/4-scale statue of Brazilian racing legend Ayrton Senna from one of his biggest fans in Japan. Another fan dressed his infant son -– whose middle name is Teekay in honor of Kanaan -– in a KV Racing Technology-Lotus onesie just like his namesake.
Danica Patrick received one of the biggest gifts -– a pair of daruma, Japanese good luck dolls, one painted to match her racing helmet and the other in the colors of primary sponsor GoDaddy.com and signed with well-wishes from a number of Japanese fans.
“These are great,” Patrick said after receiving the traditional Buddhist good luck items. “I am going to put these in the house back in the U.S.”
Daruma dolls, also known as Dharma dolls, are a Japanese traditional Buddhist toy used in goal-setting and wishing for good luck in achieving that goal. They are painted with only one eye with the other eye filled in once the goal has been achieved.
“I hope they aren’t Cyclops for long,” Patrick said.