Carpenter Builds Momentum With Solid Finish For Chevy at Kentucky Speedway SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 15, 2004 - Chevrolet's hopes for a repeat victory in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 went up in flames today at Kentucky Speedway when Tomas Scheckter...
Carpenter Builds Momentum With Solid Finish For Chevy at Kentucky Speedway
SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 15, 2004 - Chevrolet's hopes for a repeat victory in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 went up in flames today at Kentucky Speedway when Tomas Scheckter suffered a pit lane fire while leading the 200-lap race. Misfortune continued to stalk the Panther Racing team as front-running driver Townsend Bell encountered the wall 20 laps later. But rookie Ed Carpenter nailed down the race of his short IndyCar Series career to bring home Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara home in eighth place. Adrian Fernandez scored his first IRL career victory in a Honda G Force.
"This is the best car I've had since before Indy," Carpenter declared after his best finish of the season. "It feels good to be happy at the end of the race. It was a fun day.
"I've been waiting for that for a long time," Carpenter continued. "It's good for Chevy and good for the team. At the start of the race we lost the draft and found ourselves at the back of the pack. Then I had two really good restarts and that got me fired up again. We took a different strategy on gear ratios and I worked hard on my restarts, and that's what put us up in the pack."
Scheckter again showed impressive speed in the Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara. Starting 13th in the 22-car field, he sliced and diced his way to the front, using his favored outside line and his Chevy Indy V-8's horsepower. He was 10th after the first lap, sixth on Lap 66, third on Lap 121, and the leader on Lap 128. Scheckter's yellow machine led nine laps, but the elation was short-lived when a fire erupted as the car left the pit stall with the fuel hose still attached. Scheckter and the Panther Racing crew were uninjured in the incident.
"The clutch was slipping earlier in the race, and it just grabbed as I was leaving," said Scheckter. "I knew the guys were telling me to stop. The important thing is nobody was injured.
"Townsend and I really have to hand it to our guys; they gave us some great cars today," he added. "It was great to see those Chevrolets running at the front again. We'll be back. It's just a matter of time before we get this thing right, and both of us finish at the front."
Scheckter's teammate Townsend Bell had also charged to the front after starting last on the grid. Bell moved into the top 10 after 40 laps, into the top five after 66 laps and into the top three on Lap 134. Bell's bid for victory ended prematurely, however, when he had light contact with the wall on the 157th circuit.
"We were having an awesome day," said Bell. "It was great to see both Tommy (Scheckter) and myself hanging in there at the front. I got held up on the pit stop when Tomas had trouble, and we fell way back in the field. We were in the process of making that up, and I was running pretty high coming out of Turn 2 and somebody moved up and cut the air off my nose. I was so high anyway that I didn't have anywhere to go. What a shame for these Panther guys, we had the two best handling cars out there today."
Alex Barron had a relatively uneventful day by racing standards. Starting 17th in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara, Barron finished 11th on the lead lap.
"It went smoothly," Barron reported. "I could run the low line and run with the lead pack for a while, but it was slower running side-by-side so it was better for me to draft them. That's what I tried to do the whole race.
"I had really good pit stops, and overall the team did a tremendous job this weekend," he noted. "Their attention to detail was flawless. Our test after the race in Michigan helped us to understand a lot of things we're trying to do with the chassis and that will help us for the rest of the year."
Jaques Lazier finished 15th with Patrick Racing's Chevrolet Dallara, and Felipe Giaffone was 16th with the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara.
"We still have to improve, but overall it was both good and bad," said Giaffone. "Even though we were a lap down and didn't improve a lot in position, it was really the first time we could go with the pack. Something happened on the last lap and we lost a position or two, but we made it to the checkered. We had a 215 mph lap towards the end, so it was good to feel racy."
The IRL IndyCar Series will return to a 1-mile short track next weekend at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo. The Honda Indy 225, the 12th round of the 16-race IndyCar Series, will start at 3:30 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on ABC.