Scheckter Finishes 13th, Bell 18th NAZARETH, Penn. - Tomas Scheckter made the most of early handling troubles and a few ill-timed caution flags to come home with a 13th place finish in the Firestone Indy 225. The race was the final contest in...
Scheckter Finishes 13th, Bell 18th
NAZARETH, Penn. - Tomas Scheckter made the most of early handling troubles and a few ill-timed caution flags to come home with a 13th place finish in the Firestone Indy 225. The race was the final contest in the history of Nazareth Speedway. Townsend Bell finished in 18th after an accident involving Scott Sharp.
Scheckter started the race as he has the past three: making a dramatic charge to the front. He reached as high as 6th within the first handful of laps. The balance in the Pennzoil Panther machine started to slip away from the IRL veteran shortly thereafter, and he began to slip back down the grid. The Panther crew called him into the pits early after Scheckter's steering wheel was vibrating severely. A yellow flag was thrown after Mark Taylor made contact with the Turn Two wall, and the ill-timed caution prevented the Panther Pack from getting the yellow #4 back to the front.
Bell was racing his way towards a Top Ten on Lap 183 following a restart, when his run came to an abrupt end. Townsend was following Sharp -- who was two laps down, and not fighting for position at the time -- and was trying to get past the #8 car so he could complete his run. After Sharp continued to hold-up the Menards/Johns Manville car, Panther spotter Tom Sneva spoke with the spotter of the #8 car, and the two arranged for Bell to guide the Panther Chevrolet around Sharp on the inside of the third turn. As Townsend attempted to execute the maneuver, Sharp came down on him and both cars crashed into the outside retaining wall.
"The Pennzoil Panther car was great at the start. I'm not sure what happened, but I was getting a heavy vibration in the wheel, and we completely lost the balance in the car. We eventually got it back together, but we missed a yellow and were still down a lap. (Panther co-owner) John Barnes was a huge help today, he kept me positive over the radio, and kept pumping me up. With a little more fortune we could have had a better finish, but the Panther guys worked hard all weekend.
"We were struggling a bit early in the race, but we got back on the lead lap and the car was getting better. Later we caught a yellow and had enough fuel to get to the end of the race. Then we were having trouble getting past (Scott) Sharp, and our spotters were talking upstairs. (Tom) Sneva set it up so Scott would let me by on the inside of turn three. Scott told me he never said that, so there was a break down in communication somewhere. It's too bad for the Menards/Johns Manville guys, we were set to leave here with a decent finish."
Panther Tracks: Panther Racing finished second at Nazareth Speedway in 2003 ... 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 2,457 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 (13), Mark Taylor (6), Townsend Bell (7), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).
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