JOLIET, Ill. -- If Panther Racing knows one thing about Chicagoland Speedway, it's not just how to win, but how to win by inches. Two of the four closest finishes in the history of the Indy Racing League have come at the 1.5-mile oval, both of...
JOLIET, Ill. -- If Panther Racing knows one thing about Chicagoland Speedway, it's not just how to win, but how to win by inches. Two of the four closest finishes in the history of the Indy Racing League have come at the 1.5-mile oval, both of which involved the Pennzoil Panther #4, and on each occasion, the Panther Pack ended the day celebrating in Victory Lane.
Panther Racing enters the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway looking to win its third consecutive race at the speedway. In just three starts in Joliet, Panther has racked up two victories and a second place finish, while piling up a total of 155 laps led. Sam Hornish, Jr.'s win at Chicagoland in 2002 was the closest finish in the history of the league, as the yellow #4 nosed in front at the line by 0.0024 of a second over Al Unser Jr. Last year, Panther was victorious by a heartbeat over Scott Dixon and Bryan Herta in the closest 1-2-3 finish in IRL history. Both wins account for two of the most thrilling endings in motorsports. Panther was also victorious in the Menards Pro Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in 2003, as Mark Taylor pulled out the win after dueling with Ed Carpenter most of the race.
Tomas Scheckter earned a fifth place finish at Chicagoland last season, after starting second. Scheckter led that race six different times for a total of 76 laps. This will be Menards/Johns Manville driver Townsend Bell's first career start at Chicagoland Speedway. In practice today, Tomas was the third quickest car in the morning session, with a lap speed of 213.965 mph, 25.5743 second. Townsend's quickest lap was 211.864 mph, 25.8279 seconds.
"We had a good day today with our Pennzoil Panther Chevy. We had a good first session in traffic, and we stopped early in the second session because the car was so good. We'll just carry on and hope for a good qualification effort tomorrow."
"The car felt as good as we've ever had it in practice. We did a long run in the afternoon session and our Chevy was strong all the way through. The Panther guys are changing the engine out right now, so I'm not worried that we'll find more speed. It's my first time here, but this track is going to be a lot of fun. We're looking forward to it."
Panther Tracks: This weekend both Pennzoil Panther and Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolets are displaying a decal honoring Indianapolis Police Department Officer Timothy "Jake" Laird, who was killed in the line of duty last month in Indianapolis. The decal is a replica of Laird's badge, and is being sold as a sticker to raise money for the Kaylee Laird Trust Fund. Kaylee is the seven-year-old daughter of Officer Laird, and all proceeds from the sales go to the trust fund. Panther co-owner Mike Griffin and PR rep Mike Kitchel are selling the $5 stickers this weekend at Chicagoland .... 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 (13), Townsend Bell (7), Mark Taylor (6), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).