IRL: Fontana: Panther Racing qualifying report

FONTANA, Calif. -- Panther Racing will take the green flag at California Speedway tomorrow with a chance to win its third consecutive race in Fontana. Both times the Indy Racing League has come to California Speedway, Panther Racing and the yellow...

FONTANA, Calif. -- Panther Racing will take the green flag at California Speedway tomorrow with a chance to win its third consecutive race in Fontana. Both times the Indy Racing League has come to California Speedway, Panther Racing and the yellow #4 Pennzoil car have come away victorious. Tomas Scheckter will lead the Panther attack from 13th, where he qualified on Saturday with a lap speed of 213.993 mph, 33.6459 seconds. Menards/Johns Manville driver Townsend Bell will start from 17th. His qualification speed was 213.603 mph, 33.7074 seconds.

The race Sunday will be a bit of a homecoming for Townsend Bell, who was living in the Los Angeles area prior to signing with Panther. His hometown is nearby San Luis Obispo, California, and many of Townsend's family and friends are making the trip down to attend the race.

Fan Reaches Out:

Panther Racing fan Stephen Pedigo -- no relation to Panther co-owner Gary Pedigo -- had seen about enough of Panther's struggles this season, and decided to do something about it. Pedigo had an old Panther #4 decal hanging on his wall from one of Panther Racing's IRL Championship seasons, and figured he could take it out of its frame and use it to bring the team some luck. Pedigo took the decal to a local psychic, where "the psychic placed a spell on it that would bring you good luck." Then Pedigo took it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and "rubbed it on the car of Rick Mears that sits there," before sending it to the Panther shop. While it was too late to put the #4 on Scheckter's Pennzoil Chevrolet, the team brought the lucky decal with them to California in hopes that it could help change their fortune.

Tomas Scheckter:

"We were just a little off today. We were hoping for a little bit more. We were quite quick this morning in practice. Unfortunately, we missed the gears just a little bit. Chevy has done such a wonderful job making improvements for us, and I wish we could have shown it. As always, I know Panther is going to have a great racecar for me, and our Pennzoil Chevy will be ready tomorrow."

Townsend Bell:

"It's a nice feeling to come home (to California). Once again, Panther has been working hard and we've got a solid and consistent racecar. But it's a little frustrating because we're not getting down the straight-aways like we should. The wind was affecting us a little and we were off a little on the gearing, and we missed on the top gear. We'll be fine for the race and the entire Menards/Johns Manville team is looking forward to it.

Panther Tracks: Mark Taylor dominated the Menards Pro Series race at California Speedway in 2003, winning the race from the pole position and leading all 50 laps .... 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 (14), Townsend Bell (8), 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

-pr-

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