Mutoh honored at annual Indianapolis 500 Rookie Luncheon
Hideki Mutoh discovered a few minutes before addressing the crowd at the American Dairy Association of Indiana that he completed an Andretti Green Racing sweep of the Fastest Rookie of the Year Award.
“No pressure,” the driver of the No. 27 Formula Dream Honda-powered Dallara said.
Mutoh, who will start ninth in the 92nd Indianapolis 500, joins Marco Andretti (2006), Danica Patrick (2005), Tony Kanaan (2002) and team co-owner Michael Andretti (1984) as fastest rookies at Indianapolis.
“When I competed at Indianapolis in the Freedom 100 last year, I remember being surprised by the number of people in the grandstands,” said Mutoh, 25, the 2007 championship runner-up in the developmental Firestone Indy Lights series. “This year, I’m an IndyCar Series driver and racing in the Indy 500 is like a dream come true. Receiving this fastest rookie award is a great surprise.”
Mutoh, who received $5,000 from the American Dairy Association of Indiana among other gifts, is among the 11 rookies in the 33-car field for the May 25 race. Last year, Mutoh was the Rookie of the Year in Firestone Indy Lights and in 2006 was named Rookie of the Year in the Japanese Super GT Championship.
“I know it’s not going to be easy to get to the top level, but I have really good teammates that help me a lot and I learn from them,” Mutoh said. “I think the starting position is the best I could do, so I’m very happy. I’m happy to have had this much practice for the race. I’m ready.”
Joining Mutoh as first-time Indianapolis 500 participants are KV Racing Technology’s Oriol Servia and Will Power, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing’s Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal, Dale Coyne Racing’s Mario Moraes, Conquest Racing’s Enrique Bernoldi and Jaime Camara, HVM Racing’s E.J. Viso, Alex Lloyd of Rahal Letterman Racing with Chip Ganassi, and Rahal Letterman Racing’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“It’s a race that’s unique, and I’m happy I made the field,” said Bernoldi, who will start in the middle of Row 10. “It’s nice to do a lot of activities outside of driving, which makes it a race that is very complete. There are so many fans here, it’s just been a great month.”
Preparing for the race on the 2.5-mile oval, making adjustments for and experiencing changing weather and racetrack conditions, has been challenging and rewarding.
“It has been a lot of learning because the place is so different from anywhere I’ve ever driven,” Bernoldi said. “It was good because we drove for many, many days and it really helped me because I’m not that familiar with ovals. You can’t get a good result if you can’t race.”
Four Fastest Rookie of the Year recipients have won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the 34 consecutive years the American Dairy Association of Indiana has sponsored the award (Rick Mears, Jacques Villeneuve, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Juan Montoya). There are five former Fastest Rookie winners in the field this year (the three AGR drivers plus pole sitter Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Bruno Junqueira of Dale Coyne Racing).
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