Meira Kicks Off Season With A Fourth at Homestead Indy Pro Series Driver Mutoh Finishes Third in First Career Oval Race HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 24, 2007) -- Delphi Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira fought his way to the front for a fourth place...
Meira Kicks Off Season With A Fourth at Homestead
Indy Pro Series Driver Mutoh Finishes Third in First Career Oval Race
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 24, 2007) -- Delphi Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira fought his way to the front for a fourth place finish in the IndyCar Series' season opener at Homestead Miami Speedway. Super Aguri Panther driver Kosuke Matsuura finished 16th after he was the victim of another driver's accident, despite leading Panther's first laps of the season.
Meira, who was making his 60th start in the series, collected his 23rd career Top Five finish in the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300. Vitor qualified in 11th position, but picked his way forward and was able to move past Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves on Lap 25 for fifth place. In the later stages of the event, it was two fast pit stops that helped escalate Vitor's climb to the front. The first, on Lap 104, saw Vitor jump from sixth to third, and the final stop on Lap 154 enabled Panther's driver to slide past Ed Carpenter and into fourth position. After spending the final 20 laps fighting off a hard-charging Tony Kanaan, Vitor was able to claim his first Top Five finish of the season.
Super Aguri Panther driver Kosuke Matsuura made a spirited climb from his 18th-place starting position to lead the first Panther laps of 2007, only to see his race finish short when Jeff Simmons lost control of his car, collecting Matsuura's No. 55 Panasonic Panther Honda on the 92nd lap of the event. At the start, Kosuke jumped up two positions on the first lap of the event and was 12th by Lap 30. Matsuura made his way to the front of the field on Lap 55 while other cars cycled through pit stops, leading a total of three laps. Still within the Top Ten nearing the halfway point of the race, he was collected by Simmons.
Panther will return next weekend for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will be held Sunday, April 1 at 2:30 p.m.
Mutoh Finishes on Podium in First IPS Start
Super Aguri Panther Racing driver Hideki Mutoh finished third in his first career start in the Indy Pro Series, which was also his first career start on an oval track. Mutoh, who qualified fourth yesterday, was unable to show what he was completely capable of due to a cautioned-filled race that was cut short by ten laps. During his run, Mutoh experience going three-wide for the first time in his career, as he was stuck in the middle of a Chip Ganassi Racing driver and Jamie Camara. Showing veteran patience well beyond his years, Mutoh beat both drivers to the line and into the 1.5-mile oval's first turn.
Panther has now finished on the podium in nine of its 12 career starts in the Pro Series. The Pro Series will run two races next weekend on the Streets of St. Petersburg.
"Another great finish. This was a hard day for us, but we made the best of it. That's what we always do at Panther Racing. I knew today the Delphi car wasn't going to be good enough to win the race, but finishing fourth is a great start to the season. We have proved to be one of the best and most consistent cars in the league. The next step for us is to work on speed. We performed so well on the road courses last year that I'm looking forward to St. Pete."
"I wish I was able to finish the race since I had a good car and was trying to move up the position. Jeff Simmons crashed in front of me and I just had nowhere to go. The Super Aguri Panther team did a great job providing me a good car and I was enjoying the race. I am looking forward to the next race in St. Petersburg and showing a good performance on road course."
"As I said yesterday, my goal was to finish the race and learn as much as possible from it so I am happy with my result today. I enjoyed it very much and I am glad I was able to finish the race. It was very unfortunate that we had a big accident and I really hope all the drivers who were involved in the accident today are okay and get better soon. I am looking forward to the next road course race in St.Petersburg."
-credit: panther racing