IRL: Fontana: Chevy race report

Bell Rings Up Top-10 Finish in Fontana FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 3, 2004 - They say you can't go home again, but Townsend Bell celebrated his homecoming in the IRL IndyCar Series with a ninth-place finish in the Toyota Indy 400 at California...

Bell Rings Up Top-10 Finish in Fontana

FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 3, 2004 - They say you can't go home again, but Townsend Bell celebrated his homecoming in the IRL IndyCar Series with a ninth-place finish in the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway. The Californian drove Panther Racing's Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara to the top finish by a Chevy Indy V-8 in the 200-lap race. Adrian Fernandez won in a Honda G Force.

"We made up some positions by the finish, but in the middle of the race we were really slipping," said Bell. "I could hang with the leaders when I was in a big pack, but we just couldn't keep up when we were running alone. Chevy made some big improvements this weekend and I look forward to what we'll have for Texas."

Bell's Panther Racing teammate Tomas Scheckter endured another frustrating day in the Pennzoil Chevrolet Dallara. Starting 12th, Scheckter immediately dropped half a lap behind the field when the green flag fell. Scheckter then staged another of his trademark come-from-behind charges to move into the top 10 on lap 64. He was ninth on lap 85, eighth on lap 122, and seventh on lap 150.

"There was some kind of problem with the knobs on my dash and we fell all the way back at the start," Scheckter explained. "The Panther guys finally figured something out and we got a fuel setting where we could race. But the problem was with the restarts and we couldn't get the setting right to get a jump on anybody."

Then the misfortune that has stalked Scheckter all season struck again as Tomas Enge spun directly in front of him in the fourth turn on lap 194. The accident eliminated both cars, but the drivers walked away without injury.

"I just had nowhere to go," said Scheckter. "The car in front of me spun in the middle of the turn and he took me with him. It was so close to the finish I thought we were going to come away with our best result in a while."

The accident ended Tomas Enge's IRL debut in Patrick Racing's Chevrolet Dallara.

"I don't know exactly what happened," said the road racer from the Czech Republic. "I was not very close to other cars ahead of me, as I had been earlier. I spun very quickly, but maybe it was a puncture and probably it was my mistake."

Ed Carpenter also suffered a puncture, but a timely pit stop on lap 25 kept his Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara in the race and kept Carpenter in contention for the Rookie of the Year title.

"We had a punctured wheel, believe it or not," Carpenter reported. "The team did an awesome job spotting that, because it could have been a disaster. We lost a lap on that early pit stop and just never got the yellows to get back on the lead lap.

"It was a long day," Carpenter continued. "I didn't really get to race anybody. The new Chevy engine went the distance, and that's good. It was just a shame that we had to get out of the main pack early, because once you get out of that you're done."

Carpenter's teammate Alex Barron was headed for a top-10 finish until he encountered the SAFER barrier in Turn 2 on lap 185.

"Everyone was going for it with 20 laps to go," Barron said. "I just got into some dirty air in Turns 1 and 2. The car came around quick, and I ended up in the wall."

The season finale of the 2004 IndyCar Series will take place at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, October 17. The Chevy 500, the 16th round of the series, will start at 12:30 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on ABC.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Adrian Fernandez , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing