JOLIET, IL Aug 28--Nobody does high-speed, wheel-to-wheel racing better than the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series and they proved it again Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway. In a wild and crazy night of three abreast, pedal-to-the-metal...
JOLIET, IL Aug 28--Nobody does high-speed, wheel-to-wheel racing better than the drivers of the IZOD IndyCar Series and they proved it again Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway.
In a wild and crazy night of three abreast, pedal-to-the-metal racing, Vitor Meira and the ABC Supply crew's night was wilder and crazier than most. Before all was said and done, the crew replaced two front nose assemblies, Meira went a lap down and got it back, led twice, posted his first top-10 finish in two months and jumped three positions in the point standings! And drove the last half of the race with an injured right wrist!
"It was a very interesting race," said Meira afterwards. "We knew it would be, but it was really crazy! Getting two front wings, getting lapped, and then my team did a good job getting the lap back. This was very tough. I thought after the second wing replacement our race was gone but we didn't give up, never gave up, never.
"We needed this after 4 tough races," he added. "I'm glad we did it here in Chicago close to ABC Supply headquarters. They support us so well! I guess I'll have to visit them before every race--they gave me good luck."
Starting 24th in the 29-car field, Meira had begun moving up when on lap 5, Raphael Matos and Tomas Scheckter crashed in turn 2. In the ensuing melee, Meira sustained damage to his front wing and flat-spotted his right front tire. The crew replaced it in less than 16 seconds. Restarting last, a bad decision to have Meira pit to top off saw him lose half a lap to the field on the restart on lap 13.
Meira kept pace and was inching his way to the front when the pit stop cycles began on lap 55 of the 200-lap race. By lap 62, he was in the lead and on lap 63 he was in the pits getting tires and fuel in 8.1 seconds. On lap 74, he was lapped by Ryan Briscoe and Marco Andretti but he ran with them until the yellow came out on lap 78 for Ana Beatriz's brush with the turn 4 wall.
Meira stayed out to get his lap back while the rest of the field pitted. Lucky for the ABC Supply crew he did because two cars made contact resulting in Takuma Sato spinning backwards into the ABC Supply's pitbox.
On that restart on lap 85, the cars were checking up ahead of Meira and the chain reaction saw him go to the outside to avoid hitting Hideki Mutoh only to be hit by Alex Tagliani who bounced Meira into Mutoh. Meira was back in the pits for yet another nose assembly. Because he came in when the pits were closed, he was required to pit again which he did on lap 88. He restarted in 19th and on lap 97, he ran his fastest lap of the race with an injured right wrist, sustained in the crash with Tagliani.
"I'd feel it but then I was so busy out there, I'd forget about it," Meira said. "It hurts a little now though." Meira went to the infield care center to get checked out. The IndyCar medical staff did not believe he broke any bones but they arranged for him to get it x-rayed in Miami on Monday.
By lap 130 he was 15th and the pit stop cycles began on lap 136. Meira led for four more laps before pitting at the end of lap 142. The crew serviced him in just 7.4 seconds and he rejoined the field in 13th position.
The final caution came out on lap 170 for Alex Lloyd's spin off turn four onto the frontstretch grass. As teams came in for their final stop, the ABC Supply crew fitted the No. 14 with tires and fuel in 7.3 seconds. Several cars took fuel only and slipped ahead of Meira who came out in 15th. But the fresh rubber helped him advance to the front and for the final 23 laps, he was in the thick of the three-wide, nose-to-tail battles of the top 14 cars.
When the checkered flag flew, Meira nosed ahead of Graham Rahal at the line to finish ninth, his best finish since Iowa Speedway in June. He jumped to 12th in the point standings.
"It was a crazy night," said Larry Foyt. "We talked about it. I told Vitor before the race I think we're both going to be glad when this one's over. We knew it would be crazy but there was some great racing. We had some crazy stuff happen as well. We went a lap down early but it turned out to be a blessing because we stayed out to get our lap back. If we hadn't, we probably would have been pitting in our pitbox. There was a crash [between E.J. Viso and Takumo Sato] and Sato's car slid backwards through our pitbox. There's no telling how many of our guys would have been injured or what could have happened. Just funny how those things happen and it was a blessing that we weren't there."
Dario Franchitti won the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 by four hundredths of a second over Dan Wheldon. Rounding out the top 10 were: Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Justin Wilson, Scott Dixon, Meira and Rahal.
The Series heads to Kentucky Speedway this weekend for yet another Saturday night of racing.