Chevy Powers Taylor and Scheckter To Top-Five Qualifying Spots in Richmond RICHMOND, Va., June 25, 2004 - Panther Racing roared tonight in qualifying at Richmond International Raceway for Saturday's SunTrust Indy Challenge. Teammates Mark...
Chevy Powers Taylor and Scheckter To Top-Five Qualifying Spots in Richmond
RICHMOND, Va., June 25, 2004 - Panther Racing roared tonight in qualifying at Richmond International Raceway for Saturday's SunTrust Indy Challenge. Teammates Mark Taylor and Tomas Scheckter qualified third and fifth respectively on the 3/4-mile RIR oval with a new short-track specification of the Chevy Indy V-8 engine. With a power curve designed to complement the shortest track on the IRL IndyCar Series tour, the downsized 3.0-liter Chevrolet powerplant propelled Taylor to his highest qualifying position yet in the Englishman's rookie season.
"The car felt great in the first few laps so I felt we would have to go flat all the way around, and it was up to stick on the last lap," said Taylor, who circled the track at 170.683 mph in his Menards/Johns Manville Racing Chevrolet Dallara. "Tthis is my first time at this track so I was relying on our engineers and what my teammate Tomas told me.
Taylor's speed was faster than the previous qualifying record of 168.705 mph set in 2002. Taylor came up just 0.519 mph short of Helio Castroneves' pole-winning speed in a Toyota Dallara. With several rain delays and a threat of thunderstorms, track time was at a premium.
"We knew we had a good race car but weren't sure about qualifying because of the rain," Taylor reported. "Our goal is to finish, and it's going to be in the top six. We're that confident about the car and that sure about the power we have in the Chevy engine."
Scheckter was just a tick slower than his teammate at 170.592 mph in the Pennzoil Chevrolet Dallara. He also ran with the pedal to the metal in his qualifying sprint on the resurfaced track.
"I did a flat-out lap, so I don't think there was much more I could get out of the car," Scheckter said. "Chevy have done a great job. It looked like the chips were down earlier in the season, and they've pushed very hard. To see me and my teammate in the top five is not only good for Chevy, it's also good for Panther Racing."
Red Bull Cheever Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and Alex Barron will start 14th and 15th respectively. They were the first two drivers to complete qualifying runs, and had to contend with rubber left on the track by the sprint cars that ran before the IndyCar Series session.
Although rookie Carpenter had never competed in the IndyCar Series at Richmond, he drew on his previous experience in USAC Silver Crown cars at the track to hustle his Red Bull Chevrolet Dallara to a 168.132 mph qualifying speed.
"The car has been great since we got here," he declared. "Chevy brought a better engine this weekend and things are going well with my new engineer. Every race we come to we have improvements with the engine. We're really close to having the strongest engine in this series.
"I've been getting a little more out of the car every session," Carpenter explained. "I keeping pushing harder and I have yet to get everything out of the car. I feel really good and I think we're going to have a really great race car. I love short track racing so I'm having a good time here at Richmond. We know we have everything it takes to put this car in Victory Lane.
"We were the first car out and the car felt good right away," Barron reported after his 167.945 mph qualifying run. "The track is definitely smoother this year and has more grip, and it's a lot quicker. Chevrolet has made a jump in torque, and overall I think we have a good car. The way this race plays out it's all about track position and restarts. We have to make sure we have a solid race car all night because the track is going to change from daylight to darkness."
Felipe Giaffone will start 18th in the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara with a 166.841 mph qualifying lap.
"We just didn't have much track time," said Giaffone. "We did 40 laps this morning and then had a couple of problems in the second practice session. I'm really happy; I think we have plenty of power and we just need to tune the car a little more. We're not that far off. Every race we're doing a little better. With this new surface we have a lot more grip even though we have less power with the smaller 3-liter engine. It's going to be a really tough race, but it's going to be fun."
Al Unser Jr. will start 22nd in Patrick Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. "The team's done a fantastic job, but we just had the wrong setup with the car," he said. "The rain stopped us this morning and then we had a mechanical problem. We just haven't had any time on the track. We have a new engineer this weekend and we're trying to build this team. We're going to have days like this. It's like my Dad used to say: If it was easy, anyone could do it."
The SunTrust Indy Challenge will start at 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday night, June 25. The 250-lap, 187.5-mile race will be televised live on ESPN2.