Rookie Mutoh Sets Fastest Lap of Race, Finishes in Eighth Place Problems for Both Meira, Matsuura Lead to DNFs at Chicagoland Speedway JOLIET, Ill. (September 9, 2007) -- In what was a thrilling final race of the 2007 IndyCar Series season,...
Rookie Mutoh Sets Fastest Lap of Race, Finishes in Eighth Place
Problems for Both Meira, Matsuura Lead to DNFs at Chicagoland Speedway
JOLIET, Ill. (September 9, 2007) -- In what was a thrilling final race of the 2007 IndyCar Series season, it was Super Aguri Panther Racing driver Hideki Mutoh who set the fastest lap of the race on the final circuit of the 200-lap event. The former Indy Pro Series star, making his first start of the season in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300, was able to climb from his 13th-place starting position and into eighth place, the best result of Panther's three entrants.
Both Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura encountered mechanical problems late in the event that forced both the Panasonic and Delphi teams to park early, and they finished 17th and 18th, respectively.
Meira was the first to exit the 200-lap event, when a mechanical failure on his right-rear caused his No. 4 Delphi Panther Dallara Honda to spin into the wall between turns three and four of the 1.5-mile oval. Vitor, who started 15th, was able to make several impressive moves during the race and climbed to within the Top Ten before his first pit stop on Lap 38.
The No. 4 car came to life after tire pressure adjustment on the first stop, and Meira climbed to eighth where he battled with Danica Patrick, but the Panther team watched another solid finish slip away when the failure happened on Lap 137 and Meira was relegated to 18th place.
Shortly after Meira's crash, Matsuura saw his race come to a close. The Panasonic team realized they were experiencing a problem and pitted on laps 131, 142, 143 and 145 to see if they could make changes, but a alternator issue forced the team to park the No. 55 car before the race concluded.
Kosuke ended the season with two Top Five finishes -- a personal best -- and a total of five Top Tens. He ranked 16th in the final IndyCar Series championship.
It was during the yellow flag after Meira's crash that Mutoh was left a lap behind. Having already pitted his No. 60 car for tires and fuel on Lap 127, Hideki was caught a lap down on sequence. It didn't hold back the team's third driver, who fought with league veterans A.J. Foyt IV, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Buddy Rice throughout the second half of the event.
During the final three-lap shootout, Mutoh was able to climb pasted the lapped car of Sarah Fisher and then Rice, for position, to claim the eighth position. He set the fastest lap of the race at 216.646 mph on the final lap of the race.
"My goal was to finish top ten but that was like a dream, so I'm very happy that I was able to make that dream come true. I enjoyed racing with other veteran drivers and I would like to thank the Super Aguri Panther team, spotter Mike Ford, team owner John Barnes and all our sponsors for giving me this opportunity. Nothing about next year has been decided, but hopefully I'll be able to step up into the IndyCar Series full time and start my new racing career here in this league."
"It felt like something broke. We're going to have to look at it to figure out what happened. But thankfully this season is over. It's been a long year for the Delphi crew and they deserved more for all their hard work. It's been a rough year for me, for them, for the car and for everybody. Now we're going to focus on how we can make this better for next season."
"I really wanted to finish this season with a good result so it is disappointing that I couldn't even finish the race today. My season has been tough but the results were getting better and better recently so I was looking forward to showing my best performance today. I would like to that the Super Aguri Panther team, Panasonic and all our sponsors for their support this season."