Meira Finishes Fourth in Kentucky Speedway Battle
Delphi National Guard Driver Leads Race, Collects Second-Best Result of Season
SPARTA, Ky. (August 9, 2008) -- Delphi National Guard driver Vitor Meira led the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway early in the event, battled amongst the top three all day, and settled for a fourth place finish after a fuel strategy gamble by Helio Castroneves kept Vitor away from a podium spot.
The finish was Vitor's second Top Five finish of the year, his sixth Top Ten and the result vaulted Panther into 12th place in the IndyCar Series championship standings.
Meira started the race in second place, the first time Panther has qualified on the front row since the final race of 2005. For much of the first 40 laps, the starting grid stayed status quo, as Vitor chased Scott Dixon. On Lap 45, much like his performance in the Indianapolis 500, Vitor threaded the needle to pass Dixon for the lead, as the two competitors' encountered lapped traffic. He led for five laps, making the Kentucky race the sixth event Panther has led this year.
For the remainder of the race, Meira battled amongst a group of drivers including Dixon, Marco Andretti and Dan Wheldon -- the foursome that proved to be the class of Saturday night's field. The No. 4 car never dropped below fifth place, and he passed Dixon again on Lap 168 to reclaim second place, where he chased Marco Andretti for the late race lead.
As the race neared its conclusion, a frenzy of fuel-only pit stops filled the event's final 10 laps. Dixon was able to jump ahead of Andretti and Meira during the stops, and Castroneves stretched his fuel and went to the end without stopping. Dixon blew past Helio after the final turn, while Andretti took third with Meira just behind.
The race was Meira's 45th start with Panther, moving him past Sam Hornish Jr. to become the driver with the most starts with the team.
The IndyCar Series will have a weekend off before traveling to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Including the Infineon event, there are four races remaining on the 2008 IndyCar Series schedules. Only three of those will be points-paying events, as the race in Surfers Paradise, Australia will be an exhibition race.
Vitor Meira, No. 4 Delphi National Guard:
"My car was just a little too loose on the last stint to make the move. The entire time we planned on it cooling down late in the race and we knew we would be money on the last 50 laps. We're still making progress. Oval racing is all about being in the right place at the right time and putting yourself in position to win. If we continue to put ourselves in this position, it's going to happen."