FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, Dec. 8, 2000 -United States Auto Club standouts Tracy Hines, Derek Davidson and Kasey Kahne took a big step toward competing in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series after passing the Indy Racing League rookie test Dec. 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. The tests are part of a driver development program sponsored by Pennzoil and Panther Racing in which top USAC drivers are rewarded with Indy Racing rookie tests. This test consisted of 10 laps each within a speed range in four phases: 190-195 mph, 195-200 mph, 200-205 mph and faster than 205 mph. Hines completed his test in 78 laps with a fast lap of 208.9 mph, Davidson earned his license in 72 laps with a fast lap of 208.7 mph while Kahne took 70 laps to pass the test with a fast lap of 208.7 mph around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. "It is exciting to see these three young drivers pass the test, earn their license and do so well in all phases of their test," said three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, Indy Racing League special projects director, who supervised the session. "Everyone did so well considering the cooler temperatures. There was a lot of talent on the track today." The test session was postponed Dec. 6 by rain and cold temperatures and didn't begin until 2 p.m. Dec. 7 to allow for proper tire temperatures. Hines was the first to complete the test and was ecstatic exiting the Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "I'm glad it's over," Hines said. "After the rain yesterday and everything else, I was ready to get in the car. This speedway is a great place to learn. You can be a half car width off entering the groove in the turns and still get through fine. I know my last phase was a white-knuckle ride the whole 10 laps."
Davidson was impressed at the car's handling once he reached the faster phases. "The front end was looser at the slower speeds," Davidson said. "The car started planting better the faster went. Tracy had me concerned after he finished his phase, but everything went well once I got settled in after a few laps."
Kahne's test finished under the lights on the superspeedway. "The steering wheel was kind of jumping around during my first laps," Kahne said. "I wasn't comfortable the first few phases, but it started feeling better every 10 laps I ran. "I was running as hard as I could the final phase. I was trying different lines through the corners. This is really exciting for me. All three of us want to thank Panther Racing for giving us this opportunity."
Hines, 28, from New Castle, Ind., clinched the USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series title by finishing second to Brian Tyler in the season-ending race Oct. 29 at Memphis, Tenn. Hines finished the season with 603 points while Dave Darland was second with 574. Davidson, 29, from Lafayette, Ind., finished fifth in the final USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series point standings this season. But three of the four drivers who finished ahead of him - Tony Elliott, Jay Drake, J.J. Yeley - already have passed their Indy Racing rookie test. Hines also finished ahead of Davidson. Kahne, 20, from Enumclaw, Wash., won the USAC MCI WorldCom Midget Car Series title this season. Kahne also earned the Oliver Trucking Rookie of the Year Award for his 10th-place finish in the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series point standings this year.