Mutoh wins first race at Indy
Hideki Mutoh continued his domination of the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After leading practice and winning the SWE Pole Award on June 15, Mutoh led all 18 laps of Race 1 of the Liberty Challenge to claim his first Indy Pro Series victory.
The win was the first for Panther Racing since 2003 when the team won the championship with Mark Taylor.
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.
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.
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.
Race 2 of the Liberty Challenge will be June 17 at 8:35 a.m. (EDT).
Results Saturday for the Liberty Challenge Indy Pro Series event on the 2.605-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, laps completed and reason out (if any) and money earned:
1. (1) Hideki Mutoh, 18, Running, $26,000
2. (2) Alex Lloyd, 18, Running, $17,000
3. (5) Jaime Camara, 18, Running, $13,500
4. (8) Wade Cunningham, 18, Running, $11,000
5. (6) Stephen Simpson, 18, Running, $10,500
6. (3) Richard Antinucci, 18, Running, $10,000
7. (4) Bobby Wilson, 18, Running, $9,750
8. (9) Ryan Justice, 18, Running, $9,500
9. (11) Logan Gomez, 18, Running, $9,000
10. (14) Mike Potekhen, 18, Running, $8,750
11. (15) Chris Festa, 18, Running, $8,500
12. (12) Phil Giebler, 18, Running, $8,000
13. (18) Sean Guthrie, 18, Running, $7,750
14. (25) Doug Boyer, 18, Running, $8,500
15. (19) Micky Gilbert, 18, Running, $7,000
16. (17) Brad Jaeger, 18, Running, $6,500
17. (20) Ken Losch, 18, Running, $6,000
18. (21) Joey Scarallo, 18, Running, $5,000
19. (7) Jonathan Klein, 18, Running, $4,000
20. (22) Marc Williams, 18, Running, $3,000
21. (16) Andrew Prendeville, 17, Spin, $2,000
22. (10) Daniel Herrington, 13, Mechanical, $1,250
23. (24) Jon Brownson, 2, Mechanical, $1,000
24. (13) Robbie Pecorari, 1, Mechanical, $1000
25. (23) Tom Wieringa, 0, Spin, $1,000
Race Statistics Winner's average speed: 107.320 mph Time of race: 26:09.8910 Margin of victory: 6.723 seconds Cautions: None
Lap leaders: Mutoh 1-18. Point standings: Lloyd 300, Mutoh 201, Wilson 155, Festa 151, Camara 146, Potekhen 141, Cunningham 125, Pecorari 121, Klein 119, Simpson 115.
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 55 Panther Racing, first): "It was pretty hot, but the car was so good. 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."
(About starting eighth in Race 2) "I don't really have a strategy. I'll try to my best, and if I can finish on the podium that would be good."
ALEX LLOYD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilion Systems/SSM, second): "We struggled a little bit today. We had a second-place car. 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. We weren't that strong during practice and qualifying. 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. We were struggling more at the end. I don't know how quick others were, but I certainly felt like we were struggling a lot at the end. We'll see what we can do for tomorrow."
JAIME CAMARA (No. 11 Osofresh, third): "It was pretty warm out there, and the conditions were pretty tough. My car had an understeer problem, and then when I was behind the other cars, I was getting loose. 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. My car was great. I have to thank Andretti Green Racing and my engineer because the car was great."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., fourth: "It was difficult. It's always a bit of a compromise with the downforce and the gearing. We were expecting the pack to be a bit tighter, so we didn't expect to be as disadvantaged as much on the straights. So once the field strung out, it was difficult to pass. You could catch through the infield and then just hang down the straights, where as I needed a pack so I could master them on the infield, and then pass or not lose so much on the straights. But to come out fourth from eighth and have the field string out as much as I did, I think was a reasonable result and puts us in a decent spot for tomorrow, however which way they invert the grid."
STEPHEN SIMPSON (No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing, fifth): "Yeah, it was an interesting race. I think we changed our setup radically from yesterday in qualifying. The first half of the race I thought we would be in trouble, but then during the last seven or eight laps when everybody's tires got really hot and things got a little slippery out there, we kind of got a little bit better at the end. It was an interesting race. 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."
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 51 Cheever Racing, sixth): "A little frustrating. We have high goals now; we have set high targets. Today was the first time we've raced at this track, anyone on this team. It's all new for us, and we got caught a little off guard with the raise in temperature in the last month since we did our first race. We are going to work a bit, go back to the drawing board, and we're going to come out with a faster car tomorrow morning."
BOBBY WILSON (No. 1 Ocala Gran Prix, seventh): "I'm pretty disappointed. Some drivers might have been sleeping (in the pre-race driver's meeting) when John Lewis was going over the blocking procedures and how that is not allowed. Unfortunately, I was put down the inside and locked a tire. It was pretty much downhill from there because I kept locking the tires. It kept doing that time and time again. Unfortunately, I made a mistake when I was in third place and allowed everybody else to freight-train me. It's really all I could do at that point. I was just pretty much hanging on at the end. Because the track conditions were so greasy and everything was used up, it was horrible - like driving in the rain."
RYAN JUSTICE (No. 38 Lifelock/Lucas Oil/SSM, eighth): "I would feel a little bit more gratification if I earned the pole. To get it by a dice roll is just luck I guess. Definitely when you earn the pole in qualifying it feels a lot better than when you inherit it. That being said, we improved the car a lot since yesterday, and this being my first time at Indianapolis road circuit I definitely needed some more practice before we went straight into qualifying. Hopefully we'll improve it a little bit more for tomorrow and be able to hang on. I don't know if we'll be able to win the race, but hopefully we'll be able to score our first top-five."
LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 Isilon Systems/Flacondos.net/SSM, ninth): "Yeah, there were some pretty good battles going on. There was a group running around fifth position through eighth. It was pretty close racing. A few people got caught off guard going into Turn 1, which is the main place to pass here. The track was a lot different than this morning. The F1 guys were out there and made it grip more in some places. Then with the heat, the track changed. We've got a lot to work for to get good for tomorrow." (As a local driver, what's it like to race at the Speedway?): "It means a lot. Racing in the Freedom 100 and Liberty Challenge, it's great. You always hope to show well in front of your home crowd. We're still working at it, got a pretty good run today, the best finish this year."