Meira Moves to Eighth In Championship with 10th at Japan Panther Driver Gets Another Top Ten Finish; Leads First Laps of Season MOTEGI, Japan -- Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira jumped two positions in the 2006 IndyCar Series Championship...
Meira Moves to Eighth In Championship with 10th at Japan
Panther Driver Gets Another Top Ten Finish; Leads First Laps of Season
MOTEGI, Japan -- Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira jumped two positions in the 2006 IndyCar Series Championship battle with a 10th-place finish Saturday at Twin Ring Motegi. Vitor led two laps during the Japan Indy 300, his first laps led behind the wheel of the Panther No. 4 Honda, which marked the second consecutive season that Panther has led the field in Japan.
Meira fought with a car that was pushing heavily and had a broken shock, but still managed his second consecutive Top Ten finish. He also toped his previous best finish of 15th at Motegi.
Vitor now stands in eighth place in the championship battle, just 16 points out of sixth place.
After Meira moved up to ninth quickly after the start, Panther added front wing during its first pit stop on Lap 29 and then returned to the pits on Lap 49 for fuel only. The additional fuel stop enabled the team to get to the front twice, on Lap 100 and again on Lap 150, but the Pack couldn't catch a lucky yellow to keep them in the lead.
The Panther Pack continued to add front wing to the Network LIVE Honda, but when the car was running its quickest laps of the day Meira had already fallen one lap behind the leaders. The team also discovered one of the Brazilian's shocks was broken following the race, which further hampered his efforts for the victory. Meira finished just behind 2003 IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon, with whom Meira fought for ninth place.
This is Vitor's 28th Top Ten finish in only 48 IndyCar Series starts.
Qualifications for today's race were based upon entrant points entering the race, and Meira started 11th because of his tie for tenth -- entering the event -- with Dario Franchitti. The Andretti Green Racing driver was given the tenth position because he best finish of the season was higher than Meira's fifth place finish in St. Pete.
Sam Hornish Jr. has the team's best finish at Japan (6th in 2003).
Following the team's return to the United States, Panther will begin preparations for the 90th Indianapolis 500 at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team is looking to improve upon Buddy Lazier's 5th place finish last season, the best career result for Panther at IMS. Lazier started ninth at last year's race, which tied Scott Goodyear (1999) for the second-best starting position of a Panther car at Indy. Sam Hornish Jr. started 7th in 2002, which marked the team's best qualification effort at the 2.5-mile oval.
Vitor Meira Quote:
"This was a very big day for the Panther team because we were able to move up in the championship standings. I think we need to be more aggressive with our setup. It is nice to get a Top Ten, but I think we could have had a Top Five car today. We moved a ton of aerodynamics to the front of the Network LIVE car and that was still not enough. But most importantly, being able to move up some spots in the championship right before Indy is big for all of us. When we tested at the Speedway the car was great and I know we're going to have a very strong month of May."