IPS: Mutoh earns first career pole at Indy

Hideki Mutoh earned the pole position for the Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Round 6 in the Indy Pro Series by lowering the series track record by three-tenths of a second. The Pro Series took to the technical 2.6-mile road...

Hideki Mutoh earned the pole position for the Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Round 6 in the Indy Pro Series by lowering the series track record by three-tenths of a second. The Pro Series took to the technical 2.6-mile road course at 8:45 this morning for thirty minutes of practice with Mutoh setting the fastest lap at 1:25.6650 (109.473 mph), just shy of Graham Rahal's record pole time of 1:25.581 set last year

Nearly seven hours later, after Porsche GT 3 practice, Formula BMW practice and two session of Formula 1, the drivers were back on track for their 45 minute qualifying session. Mutoh topped the speed chart again, qualifying on the pole with a lap at 1:25.281, three-tenths of a second faster than Rahal's pole set last year.

After earning his first pole, Mutoh is now faced with attempting to become the first driver other than second pace qualifier Alex Lloyd to win a race this season. Lloyd, who qualified at 1:25.552, has won five straight races this season. Mutoh will have two opportunities to beat Lloyd at Indianapolis this weekend. Round 6 of the Indy Pro Series will take the green flag at 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon while Round 7 is scheduled for 8:35 a.m. Sunday morning.

Mutoh said, "I want to race fair and have a good safe race."

Trailing Lloyd by 112 points in the championship (260-148), Mutoh, who spoke to the press through an interpreter, will need to press hard to make an impact on the championship standings.

Although Lloyd missed the pole by 0.271 seconds, he was pleased with his gap to third place (0.433 seconds) qualifier Richard Antinucci. "We have a relatively big gap back to third and I have a better race car than a qualifying car," said Lloyd confidently.

Asked if he could have caught Mutoh given more track time, Lloyd replied, "Not today. That was the best I could get out of it today." Struggling through the morning session, Lloyd said his team made some big changes but "still came up three-tenths short."

Noted for providing Lloyd with a great car, the crew at Sam Schmidt Motorsports is expected to make some changes overnight. When the green flag falls on Round 6 Saturday afternoon, Lloyd will be looking for an unprecedented sixth straight series victory.

Bobby Wilson, who scored one victory in 2006, will start alongside Antinucci on the outside of the second row. Antinucci will be driving the No. 51 Cheever Racing entry. "It was a little scrappy, to be honest," reported Antinucci. "We came away with third, and we're very happy. It's quite tight from third onward. We were right there with first place this morning with Mutoh, but he and Lloyd seemed to gain more time. It's not the best of qualifying, but coming away with third place gives us a very good shot tomorrow and everything to play for."

Separated by one one-hundredth of a second, Jaime Camara (1:26.096) and Stephen Simpson (1:26.106) will share the third row. "We picked up a bit of time, but it was not what I wanted," Camara said. "I think we can do better. We had a lot of traffic outside. With such a short time, it's hard to put a lap together. I'm happy about fifth. I am not saying it's not good, but I think I could start on the front row or on the top three. I am just going to do a good race, a consistent race, tomorrow and try to get to the front and fight for the win at the end. It's a quick race, a sprint race, only 18 laps so the best you can do is to drive hard from the first lap to the last lap to see what you've got."

Despite lowering the Indianapolis road course track record for the Pro Series by 0.30 seconds the top eight drivers qualified within one second. Jonathan Klein and Wade Cunningham will start on Row 4.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Phil Giebler struggled to find speed in his Pro Series entry, qualifying 12th (1:26.606). "It's a bit of a mystery right now on why we are struggling for speed because I am catching everybody in the corners," Giebler said. "It's a bit frustrating. We don't know what it is. We trimmed out the wing to get some speed. But something is holding us up. It's a little frustrating. The team is definitely capable of more."

The Pro Series is expected to start 25 cars in the Liberty Challenge, the most this year since starting 25 in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March.

Doug Boyer's qualifying time was fast enough for the 19th starting position, however he will start last after causing a full course caution during the qualifying session. Boyer spun in the infield section with 2 minutes remaining in the session.

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Graham Rahal , Sam Schmidt , Richard Antinucci , Alex Lloyd , Phil Giebler , Stephen Simpson , Wade Cunningham , Jaime Camara , Bobby Wilson , Jonathan Klein , Hideki Mutoh