Panther Racing Runs Into Trouble Late FORT MITCHELL, Ken. -- With two of the best handling cars on the racetrack Sunday in the Belterra Casino Indy 300. Panther Racing was running at the front and poised for its best finish of the ...
Panther Racing Runs Into Trouble Late
FORT MITCHELL, Ken. -- With two of the best handling cars on the racetrack Sunday in the Belterra Casino Indy 300. Panther Racing was running at the front and poised for its best finish of the season. However, a pair of unfortunate incidents relegated the two Panther drivers to the back of the final grid. Tomas Scheckter finished the day in 22nd and Townsend Bell ended the race in 21st.
Scheckter put the Pennzoil Panther #4 back up front early in the race, as he stormed from his qualifying position of 13th to the front of the field. Townsend Bell -- who climbed all the way to 3rd by Lap 94, after starting last - followed right behind his veteran teammate. Bell started at the back of the field because on an engine change Saturday during qualifications. By Lap 128 Scheckter hunted down leader Tony Kanaan and took the top spot. Townsend was only four spots behind, as the Panther tandem were bookends in the Top Five. After leading nine laps, Tomas ran into trouble as he pitted on Lap 137.
After the Panther Pack changed the tires on the yellow #4, Scheckter pulled out of his box before the fueler was finished, ripping the fuel nozzle and hose out as he exited the pits. No Panther crewmen were injured during the stop. Bell was in the pits during the incident, and the untimely yellow sent him towards the back of the field. Once the race returned to green, Townsend began his climb back to the front was running high coming out of Turn Two, when another car moved up and took the air off the nose of his Chevrolet. He made light contact with the outside retaining wall and finished the day in 21st.
"The clutch was slipping earlier in the race, and it just grabbed as I was leaving. 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. 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."
"We were having an awesome day. 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 two 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."
Panther Tracks: Scheckter was the top Chevrolet qualifier for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 ... Mark Taylor won the pole at Kentucky in the Menards Pro Series last season for Panther, but was unable to start the race due to illness .... Townsend was Indy Lights Rookie of the Year in 2000, and the series champion in 2001 ... 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, 43 Top Fives and 55 Top Tens .... The team's 2,448 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 nine drivers have started a race for Panther: Sam Hornish Jr. (44), Scott Goodyear (30), Tomas Scheckter (11), Mark Taylor (6), Townsend Bell (5), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).