IRL: Texas II: Panther Racing Friday report

Pennzoil, Chevy Put Scheckter on Front Row FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Tomas Scheckter's days of working his way up through the field are over, and he ensured there will be a Bowtie at the front of the Chevy 500. The Indy Racing League veteran put ...

Pennzoil, Chevy Put Scheckter on Front Row

FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Tomas Scheckter's days of working his way up through the field are over, and he ensured there will be a Bowtie at the front of the Chevy 500. The Indy Racing League veteran put the Pennzoil Panther #4 on the front row for the first time this season, and his starting spot of second marks the best start for Panther Racing and Chevrolet in 2004. Scheckter's lap of 215.831 mph, 24.2690 seconds, was just a tick off Helio Castroneves' pole speed of 215.996 mph.

Menards/Johns Manville driver Townsend Bell will start 13th, after he turned a quick lap of 212.939 mph, 24.5986 seconds. This will be Bell's first start at Texas Motor Speedway in the IRL, but he did compete here in 2001 during his championship Indy Lights season. Bell has scored four Top Ten finishes this season, and has finished as the top Chevrolet on several occasions. He is coming off an exciting 9th place finish in Fontana two weeks ago.

Previously, Scheckter's best start of the year was 3rd, which he earned at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Homestead race was the site of Scheckter's 5th place finish, which is his best result of the season. He looks to top his effort on Sunday as Chevrolet and Pennzoil have brought as much power as they've displayed all season. In the post-qualification press conference, Scheckter was quick to thank both Chevy for their special engine, and Pennzoil for a special qualification oil they unveiled at the track today.

Texas Motor Speedway has hosted some of Panther's most memorable moments. None of which was more exciting than the thrilling finale to the 2002 season, when the Panther Pack defeated Helio Castroneves in a wheel-to-wheel duel that went down as arguably the best race in the history of the IRL. That victory sealed the second consecutive IRL Championship for Panther Racing, and was the fourth victory by the team at Texas. All told, Panther has recorded one win at Texas Motor Speedway in each season from 1999-2002.

Scott Goodyear drove the team to its first victory at TMS back in 1999, when he started eighth, led 43 laps and took the checkered flag. Goodyear came right back in 2000, when he started from the pole and led 115 laps en route to his second consecutive victory in the final race of the IRL season. A driver change following year in 2001 did nothing to hamper Panther's attack, as Sam Hornish Jr. picked up right where Goodyear left off -- scoring a third place finish in the June Texas event, and then ending the season with a race victory and the first of Panther's IRL Championships. In its history, Panther has led 378 laps at TMS, and Scheckter has led 252 laps alone in his three Texas starts.

Tomas Scheckter:

"Well, it's better late than never. Chevrolet has never given up this year, and they've been working 24 hours a day to make sure we can get our Pennzoil Panther car up front. For this weekend especially, they dug deep and brought us a great package. The engine they're going to give us is capable of winning the race, and that's all we care about at Panther. Chevy brought a special engine to qualify with and Pennzoil has been developing a special qualifying oil for us to use, and everything is working perfectly. Half of our weekend is over, and I can't wait for the other half to get here."

Townsend Bell:

"Every weekend I've been impressed with the hard work that Panther and Chevrolet put into our racecars. We got everything just right on our qualification run, and we ended up about right where we thought we'd be. The wind affected us a little bit, and the sun was a little bit of a problem -- I couldn't track the white lines coming out of (turn) four. I'm really happy for Tommy (Scheckter), I think we were a little disappointed after Fontana, but they've obviously continued to improve. That's the thing about Panther: These guys just aren't happy unless they're winning races, and that's what we're going to try and do on Sunday."

Panther Tracks: In the first Texas race this season, Scheckter finished 20th after bumping wheels with former teammate Scott Dixon, and Mark Taylor finished 17th after crashing late in the race. Taylor was running in the Top Five for the majority of the contest, after starting in 10th. Scheckter qualified for the race in 8th .... 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 (15), Townsend Bell (9), Mark Taylor (6), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).

www.pantherracing.com -- www.menards.com -- www.teammenard.com -- www.jm.com -- www.pennzoil.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Robby McGehee , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Dave Steele , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing