St. Pete I: Panther Racing race notes

Sherman Leads Panther Indy Lights Team With 17th Place Finish Battistini Loses Oil Pressure; Parks Early for 21st Place ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 5, 2008) -- After a stellar opening to the season for Panther Racing Firestone Indy Lights ...

Sherman Leads Panther Indy Lights Team With 17th Place Finish
Battistini Loses Oil Pressure; Parks Early for 21st Place

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 5, 2008) -- After a stellar opening to the season for Panther Racing Firestone Indy Lights teammates Brent Sherman and Dillon Battistini, the first race on the Streets of St. Petersburg was a bit more of a struggle. The team's drivers finished 17th and 21st respectively.

Sherman started 13th, evidence of continued improvement from the driver of Panther's No. 16 Best Buddies car. Sherman admitted all weekend that the St. Petersburg street course could be his biggest challenge of the season as he transitions from stock cars to Firestone Indy Lights. For a driver that finished yesterday's two combined practice sessions in the 22nd position overall, the progress throughout the weekend has been dramatic.

His No. 16 car was pushing throughout the race, preventing Sherman from getting into a rhythm on the street circuit. He still battled for the duration, but fell a lap down near the conclusion of the race and had to settle for a 17th-place result, still progress from where he started two days ago.

Battistini started 15th after being penalized for "qualifying interference" following an incident with James Davidson, who ran into the back of Dillon's No. 15 AlexP car as he prepared to brake for the fourth turn of the course during the morning's qualification session. Battistini had the ninth-quickest qualification time prior to his tangle with Davidson. As a result of the penalty his lap time was disallowed.

The starting position didn't prevent last weekend's race winner from moving forward at the start of the race.

He passed two cars on the first lap -- including teammate Sherman -- and was nearly inside the Top Ten by the seventh lap. Despite reaching as high as 11th position, the oil pressure in his No. 15 car dropped, and it began to smoke as Battistini nursed the car around the racetrack. As his on-board alarms fired, he began to lose power and elected to pull his car into the pits with a 21st place result.

The finishing positions dropped Battistini to fifth in the Indy Lights championship point standings, and Sherman fell to ninth position.

Both drivers will return to the streets tomorrow for the second Indy Lights race of the weekend at 10:45 a.m. The drivers will start the race in the positions where they finished today, putting Sherman 17th and Battistini 21st on the grid tomorrow.

Dillon Battistini:

"It wasn't my happiest day of racing in my career. I wanted to do much better but with the starting position and the problem we had during the race there wasn't much I could do. I was having oversteer in some places were I hadn't in practice and that wasn't a help. This puts us in a difficult starting position tomorrow, but I know we can make improvements and still perform well."

Brent Sherman:

"I'm disappointed. I just never really felt like the car was under me. I had entry understeer and that prevented me from getting into a rhythm like I had started to in practice. Part of the issue is that I don't know how it's suppose to feel on these street circuits, and I just want to do well for my team and all the guys that have been working so hard. I'm learning and making progress, but I need to learn faster. The season is so short I can't just run around out here."

-credit: panther racing

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Series INDYLIGHTS