FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Dec. 7, 2000) - Three drivers took a huge step toward racing with the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway by earning their competition licenses. The trio, Tracy Hines, Derek Davidson and Kasey Kahne, passed their Indy Racing rookie tests through a United States Auto Club program conducted by Pennzoil Panther Racing. The Indy Racing team offers drivers from three USAC national championship divisions the opportunity to earn their Indy Racing competition license.
Hines was the 2000 USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet national champion, Davidson finished high in the USAC Stoops Freightliner sprint car standings while Kahne captured the USAC MCI WorldCom national midget title. The test consisted of ten laps within a speed range in four phases, 190-195 mph, 195-200 mph, 200-205 mph and anything over 205 mph. Hines completed his test in 78 laps with a fast lap of 208.9 mph, Davidson earned his license in 72 laps with a fast lap of 208.7 mph while Kahne took 70 laps to pass the test with a fast lap of 208.7 mph around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. "It is exciting to see these three young drivers pass the test, earn their license and do so well in all phases of their test," said Indy Racing Special Projects director Johnny Rutherford who supervised the session. "Everyone did so well considering the cooler temperatures. There was a lot of talent on the track today." The test session was postponed Wednesday by rain and cold temperatures and didn't begin until 2 pm Thursday to allow proper tire temperatures. Hines was he first to complete the test and was ecstatic exiting the Pennzoil Panther car.
"I'm glad it's over," Hines said following his test. "After the rain yesterday and everything else, I was ready to get in the car. This speedway is a great place to learn. You can be a half car width off entering the groove in the turns and still get through fine. I know my last phase was a white knuckle ride the whole ten laps." Davidson was impressed at the handling once he reached the faster phases. "The front end was looser at the slower speeds. The car started planting better the faster I went. Tracy had me concerned after he finished his phase but everything went well once I got settled in after a few laps." Kahne's test finished under the lights on the superspeedway. "The steering wheel was kind of jumping around during my first laps," Kahne commented. "I wasn't comfortable the first few phases but it started feeling better every ten laps I ran. "I was running as hard as I could the final phase," Kahne continued. "I was trying different lines through the corners. This is really exciting for me. All three of us want to thank Panther Racing for giving us this opportunity." Indy Racing will visit Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2001 for the Casino Magic 500 and Sept. 16, 2001 for the Lone Star 500.