Hideki Mutoh won his first Indy Pro Series race, claiming the first round of the Liberty Challenge doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Mutoh started from the pole and led flag to flag, crossing the finish line 6.273...
Hideki Mutoh won his first Indy Pro Series race, claiming the first round of the Liberty Challenge doubleheader on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Mutoh started from the pole and led flag to flag, crossing the finish line 6.273 seconds ahead of second place finisher Alex Lloyd.
With his five race win streak broken, Lloyd radioed to his crew as he crossed the finish line, "If you can't win them all, second place is where we want to be."
Mutoh clearly had the field covered, leading both practice and qualifying on Friday. He qualified 0.217 seconds ahead of Lloyd and three-tenths of a second faster than last year's pole set by Graham Rahal. "My confidence level was very high," said Mutoh. "I cruised and saved my tires. I knew if I could maintain the gap to second place I could win the race."
Mutoh brought the field to green very slowly, about 35 mph according to Lloyd. "I don't now what was going on," he said. "That could have caused a lot of accidents."
Despite the slow approach to the green, Mutoh and Lloyd were well clear of Richard Antinucci when they reached the first corner. The start was so slow that "maybe the guys behind us hit the rev-limiter," Lloyd reported.
With Mutoh and Lloyd disappearing in the distance, Antinucci, who started third, first came under pressure from fourth place starter Bobby Wilson. After several questionable overtaking attempts, Wilson made a clean pass for the position to settle into third pace.
Wilson continues to throw positions away in the Pro Series, with his latest self-defeating move consisting of an off course excursion at the first corner despite a four car length lead over fourth place.
Wilson reentered the track in the midst of traffic, nearly causing a multi-car accident. He went on to finish seventh.
Jamie Camara started fifth and finished third. While Antinucci's car faded during the latter stage of the race, Camara faced intense pressure from Wade Cunningham. The pair swapped positions twice with Cunningham coming home fourth. "Wade was really aggressive," said Camara. "I knew if he passed me, I could pass him again," after letting my tires cool.
Stephen Simpson finished fifth while Antinucci brought his fading car home sixth.
While Antinucci faded, Simpson said his car got better. "The first half of the race, I thought we'd be in trouble, but then during the last seven or eight laps when everybody's tires got really hot and things got slippery out there, we kind of got a little better at the end."
Alex Lloyd's Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Ryan Justice finished eighth and will start on the pole for Sunday morning's race. In the past Indy Pro Series officials inverted the top six finishers to start the second round of a doubleheader. In a new twist, series officials drew pills to invert the start. The top 8 finishers will be inverted for tomorrow's race.