Chicago Expansion: Mutoh Joins Meira, Matsuura in IndyCar Debut Panther co-owner George Foreman to Join Pack for First Time This Season JOLIET, Ill. (September 7, 2007) -- For the first time since the Indianapolis 500, Panther Racing is ...
Chicago Expansion: Mutoh Joins Meira, Matsuura in IndyCar Debut
Panther co-owner George Foreman to Join Pack for First Time This Season
JOLIET, Ill. (September 7, 2007) -- For the first time since the Indianapolis 500, Panther Racing is expanding to a three-car lineup for this weekend's PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, where Indy Pro Series driver Hideki Mutoh will make his IndyCar Series debut.
Mutoh will drive the No. 60 Formula Dream Panther Dallara Honda and join league veterans Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura to solidify Panther's lineup. Mutoh will not compete in this weekend's Indy Pro Series race.
The team is returning to Chicagoland's exciting 1.5-mile oval, where Panther has won the closest 1-2 finish in league history (Sam Hornish Jr. over Al Unser Jr. in 2002, by 0.0024 of a second in 2002) and the closest 1-2-3 finish in history (Hornish over Scott Dixon and Bryan Herta by 0.0100 of a second in 2003).
The team also won the IPS race here in 2003 with championship-winning driver Mark Taylor.
In addition to the team's on-track expansion, team co-owner George Foreman will attend his first race of the season after joining the team's ownership group in May of this year. Two of Foreman's sons, George Jr. and George III are also partners in Panther and George III will attend this weekend along with Foreman's daughters Natalie and Leola.
Mutoh has tested an IndyCar at Mid-Ohio, Kentucky Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway after making an impressive run at the Indy Pro Series championship, where he currently ranks second in points. While Mutoh -- who claimed Rookie of the Year honors in the IPS -- wanted to win Panther its second Pro Series crown, he was able to claim the team's first victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in June and won at Kentucky Speedway last month in dramatic fashion.
Meira returns to Chicagoland, after finishing in sixth place last season, a result that solidified fifth place in the championship. While Vitor and his No. 4 Delphi team aren't in championship contention this season, they hope a solid finish Sunday helps propel them into 2008. Team owner John Barnes has been telling his crewman this week that, "2008 starts this weekend" and many of them have taken that attitude to heart.
The last time Matsuura was on an oval he finished 11th despite making heavy contact with Dario Franchitti after the checkered flag. Last weekend at Belle Isle, Matsuura finished fifth in a crash-filled event, from which he recorded his second Top Five of the season. Kosuke, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, is completing his first full season with Super Aguri Panther Racing. He has recorded five Top Ten finishes in his 16 starts.
The race will be broadcast live on ABC at 4 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio channels 144 and 145.
"I am happy to be the IPS rookie of the year but I wanted to win the Championship so it is a bit of mixed feeling. I am so glad that I was able to race in Indy Pro Series with a fair competitors and I was able to learn so much. It is a great series for the drivers aiming to step up to the IndyCar Series. I enjoyed all the races and I would like to thank my team for their great job and their support. My big accomplishment was winning the race at Kentucky Speedway for my first oval victory. After winning on the road course at Indianapolis, I really wanted to win on an oval before I moved to the IndyCar Series. I now feel like I'm ready for this challenge and hope to have a great race in Chicago."
"I like Chicago and we're excited to get back to an oval race. I'm also excited for Hideki and it's been nice watching him develop this season and earn this opportunity. The Delphi team has had some bad luck this season, but we want to turn it around to close out the year. JB (team owner John Barnes) has been telling us all week that 2008 starts today, and that's the attitude we're taking into the weekend."
"After August, our luck has really started to come around and we've been able to have many good finishes. It's been fun. I really want to finish the season strong for Panasonic and the guys on my team, and after everything that's happened this year, I want to finish the season happy."