INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 7, 2011) – IZOD IndyCar Series veteran Hideki Mutoh will drive the No. 17 Honda Formula Dream AFS/SSM Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in the Sept. 17 Indy Japan 300 on the road course at Twin Ring Motegi.
Mutoh, a veteran of 52 IndyCar starts and native of Tokyo, will be a teammate to Canadian driver Alex Tagliani, who drives the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM).
“I am really looking forward to working with Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Motegi,” said Mutoh, who has made three career IndyCar starts on the oval at Twin Ring Motegi with a best finish of 11th in 2008. “Though this is only one race, it means a lot to me to be able to race in front of my home crowd again. This has been a tough year for Japan and I hope we can bring some excitement to the many fans. I am determined to do well and put up a strong performance for the team. It will also help having Alex Tagliani as a teammate and I really cannot wait to get started.”
The No. 17 car is a joint entry between SSM and AFS racing, which is owned by Gary Petersen. Schmidt and Peterson share a long history together, and both have a strong desire to win, not just compete. Like Schmidt, Petersen is a former open-wheel racecar driver. He drove in Firestone Indy Lights before transitioning to a full-time team ownership role.
“I’m thrilled we’re able to give Hideki Mutoh the opportunity to get into an Indy car this season,” said team owner Sam Schmidt. “After showing so much promise in the series last season, and being able to compete at a circuit he has experience at, I can’t wait to see what he can do on the road course at Motegi.”
Mutoh had impressive back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009 driving for Andretti Green Racing. In 2008, he captured the IndyCar Series’ rookie of the year title, finished 10th in the championship point standings and recorded his career-best finish of second at Iowa Speedway in Newton. The next year, he finished 11th in points, had four top fives and also led 74 laps at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
The 2011 season marks SSM’s 10th anniversary of fielding cars in INDYCAR. Schmidt started out as a team owner in 2001after his own driving career ended in 2000 following an accident during testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Driver Davey Hamilton started 26th in the 2001 Indy 500 in an SSM Dallara and finished 23rd.
For more information about AFS Racing, visit www.afsracing.com