IRL: Chicagoland: Panther Racing qualifying report

Mutoh Leads Panther's Qualification Efforts in Thirteenth Team Crewmen Sheehan, Fink Win Annual Truckee' Awards JOLIET, Ill. (September 8, 2007) -- Hideki Mutoh is already making a strong impression on his team and the IndyCar Series in his ...

Mutoh Leads Panther's Qualification Efforts in Thirteenth
Team Crewmen Sheehan, Fink Win Annual Truckee' Awards

JOLIET, Ill. (September 8, 2007) -- Hideki Mutoh is already making a strong impression on his team and the IndyCar Series in his first official day of practice since the Japanese driver graduated from the developmental Indy Pro Series. Mutoh, who parked his IPS car for a the No. 60 Formula Dream Panther Dallara Honda for this tomorrow's PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300, qualified 13th Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.

Mutoh posted a top lap speed of 212.234 mph, 25.7829 seconds in qualifications. He will start on the inside of Row Seven.

Panther veterans Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura were just behind their rookie teammate and will occupy the eighth row for tomorrow's 200-lap event. Meira, who will start 15th, is looking to climb up the grid for another Top Five finish. He finished sixth at Chicagoland's 1.5-mile oval last season, which secured fifth place in the 2006 IndyCar Series championship.

Meira's top speed was 211.537 mph, 25.8678 seconds.

Matsuura will start alongside Meira, on the outside of Row Eight in the 16th position. While Matsuura and his Panasonic team battled with bad luck during the early part of the season, the Japanese driver has been able to turn it around this in the second half of the year.

Kosuke has finished Top Five in two events this season, the first time in his career he has collected more than one Top Five finish in a season. He also equaled his career best finish earlier this season at Michigan, where he collected a fourth place result.

His lap speed was 211.450 mph, 25.8784 seconds.

The race will be broadcast live on ABC at 4 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio channels 144 and 145.

Panther Crewmen Paul Sheehan Named 'Truckee of the Year'; Mitch Fink IPS Truckee and 'Tire Guy' Of the Year

Two of Panther Racing's crewmen were honored last night in the annual awards banquet held by all the transport operators in the IndyCar and Indy Pro Series. While the 'truckees' -- as they're called -- are noted primarily for driving the team transporters to-and-from each race, they are typically some of the hardest working men in the paddock.

Paul Sheehan, transport operator for Kosuke Matsuura's No. 55 Panasonic Panther team, took home the biggest award of the evening, the annual IndyCar Series "Truckee of the Year" honor. This is the first time that Sheehan has won the award. Sheehan also handles the tire duties for Matsuura's No. 55 team, and changes the outside-rear tire during the IndyCar Series races.

Many of Panther's team members have noted that Sheehan, "never stops working."

"I know that internally, we've noticed how hard these guys have worked for us this season," team co-owner John Barnes said. "But I know it's flattering that all of their peers have noticed the same work ethic that's made them an important part of our team. They just keep their head down, don't complain, and do the work, and that's what we like at Panther."

The veteran crewmen is in his first year with the team after spending the last several seasons with Fernandez Racing.

Mitch Fink was honored with both the Indy Pro Series "Truckee of the Year" and "Tire Guy of the Year" Awards, after Fink spent the season as the transport operator for Hideki Mutoh's successful season in the Indy Pro Series. Fink won the award for his duties handling the tires on Mutoh's No. 55 car. The Super Aguri Panther crewmen was part of a season where Mutoh won two races -- the Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and recently at Kentucky Speedway -- and made a run to second in the IPS championship standings.

Fink is also the fueler on Vitor Meira's No. 4 Delphi team.

Panther transport operator Scott Simpson won the IndyCar Series award in 2005.

The race will be broadcast live on ABC at 4 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio channels 144 and 145.

Hideki Mutoh:

"We couldn't quite find a good setup in the practice session so we changed the setup in the second practice session and it was good. I thought we would be able to qualify in a better position but I guess it's not that easy. We have a good car so I am looking forward to my first race in IndyCar Series. My goal is to finish the race and it would be great if I could finish in the top ten."

Vitor Meira:

"What you saw in qualification is what we have. We worked on a lot of things today and made sure we focused on the race. Qualifications at Chicagoland isn't that important. We'll be where we're supposed to be in a couple laps anyway, so I'm not worried about it. I know the Delphi guys are working hard and I'm working hard. We'll finish this season on a high note tomorrow."

Kosuke Matsuura:

"I was able to run smoothly in the first practice session but I couldn't really get a speed for the qualifying session. I am confident that we are going toward the right direction on setup so I hope we will be able to find out the way to get more speed tomorrow and I will my best to move up."

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Kosuke Matsuura , Hideki Mutoh , John Barnes , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing