Buddy Lazier Pulls Off 5th-place Finish in Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Despite a front wing that was broken in three separate places, Buddy Lazier managed to pull off a fifth-place finish in the 89th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday -- which marks the best finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Panther Racing. Lazier's impressive effort is also the best finish for a Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria sponsored car.
Tomas Enge and Tomas Scheckter finished 19th and 20th, respectively, as they were both involved in an accident on Lap 155.
All three of Panther Racing's Chevrolets were running consistently in the Top Ten, and each had a chance to threaten the lead. However, Panther lost two-thirds of its arsenal when Danica Patrick got sideways during a Lap 155 restart, and both Tomas Enge and Tomas Scheckter were collected in the accident.
Patrick did a quarter-spin on the restart and made contact with Enge, who was eliminated from the race. Scheckter, who was just behind the accident, spun while trying to avoid the collision and made contact with the inside retaining wall. Scheckter attempted to pass the two IndyCar Series rookies as they got together, but he spun in the process and was also eliminated from the race.
Lazier's #95 Jiffy Lube/Byrd Brothers Chevrolet rolled into its pit box after the race with a hole in the nose cone, a split on the right side, and missing the left end plate. The Byrd Brothers/Panther team changed to Tomas Enge's RockStar nose after the rookies' accident during the race, and further damage was caused when Scott Sharp blocked Lazier into the grass on the backstretch. Lazier's nose made contact with the rear of Sharp's #8 during the block. Sharp was black-flagged for his actions.
In addition, Lazier's car had wheel marks on both sidepods.
Panther Racing's previous best finish at Indianapolis was 9th in 2000 with Scott Goodyear.
"Danica lost it in front of me. My teammate got caught up in it, and I got caught up in it. She got it wrong on the restart, a little mistake but big consequences for everybody else. That's the kind of thing that happens in racing, but it hurts a little more because this was Indy. There was just nothing I could do to avoid the incident. We'd spent the entire race being patient and were just waiting to turn it loose. I'm not sure what else I can say, the Pennzoil Platinum Chevy was going to be a factor, but we never had a chance to show everybody how much power we had."
"I feel like I had a great run going. On the restart Danica lost the rear and I went beside her when the contact happened, and when I was there I saved her actually. It's a shame because all of the guys at Panther Racing and Chevrolet were really fantastic. Unfortunately I couldn't fight for the Rookie of the Year, but I'll come back next year. This was my first real race of the year and I felt like I was having a great day. It's really a shame. I was trying to stay on the lead lap and we tried to set up my car as best as possible for the final shootout."
"I knew when I signed on with this team that I'd have a real chance to win this race. I think we would have made a great run for it if we didn't have a problem with our front wing. Hats off to Chevrolet, they did their homework over the offseason and gave us a chance to win this race. It's really amazing we were running at the end like we were. We replaced the nose once, and then I got blocked pretty good on the backstretch and caused some more damage. This was a great effort by the whole team and everybody involved. To come back from where we were two days ago says a lot about all these guys. I'm going to keep working and see what happens, but I really want to be back driving IndyCar full-time. And I hope it's with these guys."
Panther Tracks: Pennzoil Panther Race Engineer David Cripps has engineered three drivers to Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year awards: Lyn St. James (1992), Christian Fittipaldi (1995), Tora Takagi (2003), and Cripps now works with the 2002 co-Rookie of the Year Tomas Scheckter ...... Buddy Lazier was the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner ..... Tomas Scheckter was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 2002, and scored his first IndyCar Series victory in the same year at Michigan International Raceway ... Panther Racing has been involved in six of the Top Ten closest finishes in IRL history -- winning five ... Since joining the league in 1998, Panther has 33 podium finishes, 44 Top Fives and 57 Top Tens .... The team's 2,508 laps led is second only to Team Menard .... Panther Racing won back-to-back IRL Championships in 2001 & 2002, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Championship in 2003, and is the league leader in victories for both series: IRL (14 wins) and IPS (7 wins) ... A total of eleven drivers have started a race for Panther: Sam Hornish Jr. (44), Scott Goodyear (30), Tomas Scheckter (21), Townsend Bell (10), Mark Taylor (6), Tomas Enge (4), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Buddy Lazier (1), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).