Victory Lane Recap (IPS) - 2007, Indianapolis
Hideki Mutoh, Super Aguri Panther Racing, Collect First Indianapolis Motor Speedway Victory
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 16, 2007) – It was a tire puncture during Hideki Mutoh’s first run around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that ruined a chance at victory. But the Speedway’s road course was much kinder to Panther’s rising young star.
Mutoh dominated the road course and the first race of the Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, after a tire puncture a month earlier in the Freedom 100 ruined his chances of winning on the oval.
After leading practice and winning the SWE Pole Award, Mutoh took the green flag and never looked back, leading each of the event’s 18 laps before claiming his first career Indy Pro Series victory, and Panther Racing’s first win at Indianapolis
The win was the first for Panther Racing since 2003 when the team won the championship with Mark Taylor.
"It was pretty hot, but the car was so good," said Mutoh, who competed in the Formula Nippon Championship last season. "I could have a big gap in the beginning of the race so I just tried to save my tires if I had a yellow, caution and stuff like that. So I tried to drive the car safe. But the reason I won was because the car was so good. The track was pretty much the same as yesterday. The car was setup perfectly for me."
The victory on the 13-turn, 2.605-mile circuit snapped the record five-race winning streak of Alex Lloyd. Lloyd, who started second in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon Systems/SSM car, finished second, 6.273 seconds behind.
"We had a second-place car," Lloyd said. "That was the best we could do. You can't win them all. When you're in a position where you're not able to win, you have to do the best you can. Second was as good as we could do. Obviously, I'm disappointed in not winning, but all in all, we had a good, strong day. After a couple of laps in the race, we realized that we didn't have anything else. I was hoping my car came on and his came off, but my car went off even more."
While the two leaders pulled away from the field, there was an intense battle for positions three through seven. In the end, Andretti Green Racing's Jaime Camara finished third, his second podium finish of the season, 2005 series champion Wade Cunningham was fourth and rookie Stephen Simpson was fifth. Richard Antinucci and Bobby Wilson, who battled each other for third for several laps, finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
"My car had an understeer problem, and then when I was behind the other cars, I was getting loose," said Camara, who started fifth. "I had to work with the car. Then when I passed Wilson and Antinucci, my car was good again because I was in clean air."
"It was an interesting race," said Simpson. "It was good to see some good overtaking moves going on by all the guys down there, especially in Turn 1. It was good to see some good, close racing but very fair racing, as well."
After the race, Mutoh participated in a blind draw to determine the top starters for Race 2 of the Liberty Challenge. Mutoh drew an "8" meaning the top eight finishers will be inverted for the start of Race 2. Mutoh will start eighth while Ryan Justice will start in the first position.