CHEVY AND SCHECKTER ON POLE FOR IRL SEASON-OPENER MIAMI, March 5, 2005 -- Chevrolet, Tomas Scheckter and Panther Racing are back on top. Scheckter put his Chevy-powered Pennzoil Dallara on the pole for Sunday's season-opening Indy Racing League...
CHEVY AND SCHECKTER ON POLE FOR IRL SEASON-OPENER
MIAMI, March 5, 2005 -- Chevrolet, Tomas Scheckter and Panther Racing are back on top. Scheckter put his Chevy-powered Pennzoil Dallara on the pole for Sunday's season-opening Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 215.115 mph qualifying lap on the 1.5-mile oval. Scheckter's teammate Tomas Enge qualified third in Panther Racing's Rockstar Chevrolet at 214.152 mph as the two Chevy Indy V-8s in the 22-car field captured two of the top three starting spots.
"This is the type of racing you dream about, when you've got a great car and a strong engine," said Scheckter. "It's great to come to the track and know you have a combination like this. I'll tell you what makes me the proudest: So many people have been giving Chevrolet a hard time, and they just fought back. My hat's off to them and what a great job they did."
Chevrolet's last IRL IndyCar Series pole was won by Richie Hearn at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 6, 2003. Scheckter, the sixth driver in the qualifying order today, withstood the challenges of 15 drivers who tried to knock him from the top spot. The two Tomases were qualified side-by-side on the front row until Vitor Meira, the 19th driver in the order, edged Enge by .019 seconds.
"Chevrolet has put a massive effort into the engine program just as they promised, and it's showing now," Scheckter explained. "I feel optimistic about tomorrow because my race car is even better than my qualifying car, and there's a lot more to come."
"Today's performance by both of Panther Racing's drivers shows that we were serious when we said that Chevy would be competitive in 2005," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL program manager. "We know the competition is intense, but we plan on winning some races. We have a engine now that will allow Panther Racing to run at the front."
Enge, a former Formula 3000 star and Formula 1 driver from the Czech Republic, will make his third career IRL start on Sunday in Panther's Rockstar Chevy.
"We were fast in the morning practice session and I didn't think we would go any faster," Enge revealed "But my engineer promised me that we were going to go 214 mph, and everybody did a great job. The Chevy engine has improved from last year -- big time!"
"I've only been with this team a short time, but they always surprise me," he laughed. "I'm still new to this championship, but I'm gaining confidence every time I go out on the track. So far we are looking good."
The season-opening Toyota Indy 300 will begin at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 6. The 200-lap, 300-mile race will be televised live on ESPN.