Mutoh Nearly Wins Corning 100; Meira Starts Eighth at Watkins Matsuura Crashes in Morning Practice, Qualifies 11th for Tomorrow's Race WATKINS GLEN, NY. (July 6, 2007) -- It was a busy day at Watkins Glen International Raceway for Panther ...
Mutoh Nearly Wins Corning 100; Meira Starts Eighth at Watkins
Matsuura Crashes in Morning Practice, Qualifies 11th for Tomorrow's Race
WATKINS GLEN, NY. (July 6, 2007) -- It was a busy day at Watkins Glen International Raceway for Panther Racing, as the team watched Indy Pro Series driver Hideki Mutoh nearly win his second race of the season and both IndyCar Series drivers qualify for the Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix inside the top eleven positions.
Mutoh, who started fourth in the first of the Corning Twin 100s this weekend, narrowly missed out on another victory Saturday afternoon, but was forced to settle for second position behind winner Wade Cunningham. Hideki was able to pass two cars -- including points leader Alex Lloyd - in the first circuit of the 29-lap event, but couldn't overtake Cunningham on the final lap.
After Mutoh reached the second position on Lap One, he was drastically trying to catch the race leader while holding off third-place Lloyd, the only driver Mutoh trails in the points championship. Hideki was able to drive away from Lloyd, and he nearly overtook Cunningham as they raced for the finish line, where Panther's young Japanese driver came just 0.0743 seconds short of his second victory this season.
In IndyCar Series qualifications, Delphi Panther driver Vitor Meira narrowly missed reaching the "Firestone Fast Six" and instead had to settle for an eighth place starting position -- the same qualification result he had last year before finishing second. Meira had finished sixth in the first practice session of the day, but his car picked up a push after track and weather conditions changed in the afternoon's qualifications.
He ran a quick lap of 133.077 mph, 1:31.1652 seconds.
Super Aguri Panasonic Panther driver Kosuke Matsuura was coming off on of his best practice days of the season entering the morning practice session, but the Japanese driver spun in Turn Seven of Watkins Glen's 3.37-mile road course, causing damage to his rear wing and right-rear suspension. The Panther crew worked throughout the afternoon to repair the damage to get Matsuura out in time for qualifications. But, Kosuke soon realized, his Panasonic No. 55 Honda picked up the same push as his teammate, and his qualification lap time put him in eleventh place for tomorrow's event.
Matsuura's qualification speed was 131.921 mph, 1:31.9641 seconds.
For Mutoh, Saturday's race was another impressive run for the young driver from Tokyo, Japan. He has now finished on the podium in six of his nine career starts, a run that includes eight Top Five finishes. He will start fifth in the second of the Corning Twin 100s tomorrow, after Cunningham drew a "6", meaning the order of the top six finishers today will be inverted.
The Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix will be broadcast live on ABC at 3:30 (EST) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network at XM Satellite Radio channels 144 and 145.
"I think the track got a lot worse from the morning practice session. We lost a lot of grip and picked up a big push almost everywhere on the track. I'm happy overall, but we always feel like there is something we can improve upon in the Delphi car. Our goal was to start in the top six today and we almost did that. I like this track a lot, and I started eighth last year and we almost won. I just hope we can have one of those days where everything comes together and we can win the race."
"I'm not happy with the qualification result, because I wanted a good result today for the team. All the Panasonic guys worked so hard today to get the car ready to qualify after I crashed in the practice session. Even though we aren't starting where we wanted, I'm in the middle of the field and there will be opportunities to move up tomorrow. Hopefully we can race well and get a good result."
"It was a very tough race but I enjoyed it very much. After I passed Alex, I tried to pass Wade few times but he was fast and I was struggling to stay close to him. I tried to pass him again on the last lap but I couldn't. Considering the fact we have another race tomorrow, today was a good learning curve for me and I feel more comfortable racing tomorrow. I will be starting from the 5th position so I will concentrate on passing the cars in front of me and hopefully win the race."