INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- June 13, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Scheckter gains confidence with Texas win 2. Scheckter's Win Nets Florida Man Trip To Season-Finale 3. Panther Racing sweeps post-race rewards 4. Gregg flips over second...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- June 13, 2005
Today's IRL headlines
1. Scheckter gains confidence with Texas win
2. Scheckter's Win Nets Florida Man Trip To Season-Finale
3. Panther Racing sweeps post-race rewards
4. Gregg flips over second Menards Infiniti Pro Series victory
5. Patrick's wing auction fetches more than $40,000
1. Scheckter gains confidence with Texas win: Individually, the numbers describe a fast and entertaining twilight race June 11 at Texas Motor Speedway. Collectively, they tell the story of Tomas Scheckter's first IndyCar Series victory since his rookie season in 2002.
119: Laps led of 200.
7.8: Seconds for final pit stop on Lap 171 when he was the leader.
213.808: Fastest leading lap in mph on Lap 196 with Sam Hornish Jr., right on his tail.
0.0534: Margin of victory (less than a car length).
17: Lead changes among six drivers.
With its 15th victory, Panther Racing regained the title as winningest team in IndyCar Series history. One-third of the victories have been on the high-banked 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval, including two by Hornish.
Scheckter also regained confidence -- an intangible for a professional race car driver at the highest level of the sport. And after 27 career DNFs and one top-10 finish in the previous 21 events, he believes his pole and race victories could be the first steps in changing outside perceptions.
"It's been tough before this victory," said Scheckter, driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. "You honestly start to have doubts about your ability to win races, but this win is unbelievable for our team. I needed it for my morale.
"I told the guys as long as they got me out in the top five during the race I'll win, and that's just what they did. A couple of stages I didn't believe in myself. (Co-owners) John (Barnes) and Doug (Boles) and everybody in the team stuck behind me, allowed me to get my confidence back up to get us to this stage. I think certainly after this, we're definitely going to take a different attitude going into races. Hopefully, we're a threat at every race after this."
After an Open Test at Watkins Glen International on June 15, the series begins its summer swing with stops at the bullring at Richmond International Raceway and the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval in consecutive weeks.
Boles said he noticed Scheckter's approach change entering the Indy Japan 300. He was more patient, letting the race come to him instead of attempting one daring maneuver after another to get to the front -- often with consequences. Though the result perpetuated his streak of misfortune (Scheckter was leading until running out of fuel with two laps remaining), at least one person's perception was altered.
"At Japan, Tomas I think decided he was just going to sit back and ride and see what happened," Boles said. "I think after the race he said to John Barnes, 'I just figured something out. I don't have to make those crazy passes till the end. I have a chance to win this.'
"Indianapolis was the same thing. He was sitting, waiting to go. On the radio with his guys (at Texas) he said, 'Is it time to go yet, guys? Is it time to go?' He's gotten a lot more patient the last three races. That's just going to mean a lot more victories for the 4 car."
At 24 and in his fourth IndyCar Series season, Scheckter says the maturation process has not been as quick as he would have liked. But it's coming.
"If you push very much from the beginning, you sort of get to the end of that race and you're mentally starting to tire," he said. "I just sort of relax and stay in tow. When I needed to go, I went. I knew from the beginning we had a good car. I told the guys, 'Let's just be easy. Let's get in and out of the pits, no pressure.' ''
That's what Scheckter is feeling -- finally.
2. Scheckter's Win Nets Florida Man Trip To Season-Finale: Martin Labombard rode with Tomas Scheckter to victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway. In October, Lombombard will get a chance to personally thank Scheckter.
As Panther Racing's "Fan of the Race," Labombard's name rode along with Scheckter in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone during the Bombardier Learjet 500k. Scheckter's victory earned the Zephyrhills, Fla., resident a trip for two to the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway in October.
"I knew (Tomas) was going to win, but it was exciting," said Labombard, who signed up for the Panther Fan Tour at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "I just had a feeling. When I was listening to qualifying, when he qualified first, that's when I knew."
Labombard said he'd like to take his 15-year old daughter to California, but may take his brother since minors under 18 are not to use the pit passes which come with the prize package.
"That was the best thing I'd ever won," he said. "It was an awesome race. I think I converted about 20 people into fans of Tomas Scheckter and Panther Racing. I'd like to congratulate Tomas. And say thanks to (Panther Racing) for having this promotion -- it's awesome!"
3. Panther Racing sweeps post-race rewards: In addition to his race win, Tomas Scheckter reaped a number of benefits for winning the season-opening IndyCar Series event.
Scheckter collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 109 of the Bombardier Learjet 500k, and was presented with an engraved Formula One timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Formula One timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.
The design of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 has been upgraded and redesigned from its original version. It now features a titanium-coated steel bezel, protective bumpers, and the six legendary features that define a TAG Heuer sportswatch -- screw-in crown, unidirectional turning bezel, luminescent hands and hour markers, scratch resistant sapphire crystal, water resistance to 200m and a double safety clasp.
In addition, Tomas Enge posted the fastest race lap at Texas, tying him with Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice for second in the season-long standing for the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap contest. Argent will award $25,000 to the entrant of the driver who completes the fastest lap the most number of times in the 2005 IndyCar Series season.
4. Gregg flips over second Menards Infiniti Pro Series victory: Travis Gregg forgot to do a backflip following his win in the season-opening Homestead-Miami 100 Menards Infiniti Pro Series event. He made up for it by doing two flips at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I started doing them when I won my first two sprint car races in 2002 and 2003," the 27-year-old from Camden, Ohio said. "They're just fun. I do them sometimes if I've just got a lot of energy. Funny way to entertain yourself, I guess."
Gregg learned the trick when he was in the seventh grade and was soon performing flips in his family's living room. But unlike NASCAR standout Carl Edwards, who leaps from the door of his stock car after victories, Gregg does his back tuck from the ground next to his car --adding to the degree of difficulty.
"I know Carl Edwards flips off his car but I've just always done them from the ground," Gregg said. "Well, I haven't practiced flipping off of anything, but it probably would be easier because you don't have to rotate your body as much. I would definitely have to practice that before I did it. Just guessing, I'd think it would be harder to do it on the ground."
5. Patrick's wing auction fetches more than $40,000: The damaged wing from the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone driven by Danica Patrick in the 89th Indianapolis 500 fetched an astounding $42,650.01 on eBay.
The section retails for about $5,000 new, but the fact that it is associated with the hottest sports personality in the nation contributed to the bidding frenzy. All things Patrick up for auction on eBay -- from signed Sports Illustrated cover replicas to trading cards from her karting days -- are attracting multiple bidders in a game of "top that." The winning bid -- by one cent -- came in the final few seconds of the auction.
Before the Bombardier Learjet 500k at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11, she signed the wing "2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year - Danica Patrick." Panther Racing (with the blessing of Rahal Letterman Racing) placed the wing on eBay to raise money for its charity -- Best Buddies Indiana.
"We're so happy that Panther Racing invited us to be part of this e-Bay event," Best Buddies deputy director of programs Sarah Baldini said. "It has opened us up to possibilities we would have never thought possible and for that we are truly grateful."
Rahal Letterman Racing has agreed to host the winning bidder at an IndyCar Series race, with Panther Racing providing tickets and pit passes. The winner also will meet Patrick and Tomas Enge, whose sidepod was the recipient of the wing during the incident on Lap 154 of the 500-Mile Race.
Patrick was the first woman to lead a race lap in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," and went on to finish fourth -- another milestone.
"We want to congratulate Danica Patrick," Baldini said. "She personifies what Best Buddies Indiana is all about: celebrating dreams and overcoming challenges. We would also like to extend a huge thank you to John and Jane Barnes and all of our friends at Panther Racing for their unwavering commitment to Best Buddies Indiana, Danica Patrick, and most importantly, the generous e-Bay bidders who are helping people with intellectual disabilities."
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 25 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." ESPN2's telecast of the Firestone 100 will be shown at 3 p.m. (EDT) on June 16. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Liberty Challenge on June 18 at the 2.605-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ESPN360.com will provide live coverage of the race. It will be telecast at 5 p.m. (EDT) on June 21 by ESPN2.