Scheckter And Bell Team Up to Lead Chevy Qualifying in Kansas IRL KANSAS CITY, Kan., July 3, 2004 - Townsend Bell's first day in the IRL IndyCar Series was a ringing success for the Chevrolet-powered Panther Racing team. Bell turned in the...
Scheckter And Bell Team Up to Lead Chevy Qualifying in Kansas IRL
KANSAS CITY, Kan., July 3, 2004 - Townsend Bell's first day in the IRL IndyCar Series was a ringing success for the Chevrolet-powered Panther Racing team. Bell turned in the seventh fastest speed in qualifying for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway at 208.839 mph, and then chimed in with some advice that helped his teammate Tomas Scheckter post the fifth fastest speed at 209.138 mph. Scheckter's lap was just one mph shy of Buddy Rice's pole-winning speed in a Honda Dallara.
Bell drove an IRL car for the first time this morning, completing 78 laps in one hour of practice.
"It was very smooth, the quickest run we've had all day," said Bell after his first IRL qualifying run. "I have to say I'm very impressed with this engineering group. Everything happened just like they said it would.
"Panther, Chevy and the Johns Manville team have been so good to me - it wasn't a week ago I was sitting on the beach thinking it would be next year before I'd drive a race car," said the 29-year-old Californian. "They were so cool, calm and collected about getting everything together, by the time I showed up this morning I felt like I'd been with the team six months!
"Chevy's done a good job, and you can see how close it is between the engine manufacturers at the front of the grid," Bell noted. "I just need miles and experience now. If I finish tomorrow I'll feel good, but I have a feeling we might be up front."
Scheckter's fifth spot on the starting grid duplicated his qualifying effort at the preceding race in Richmond, Va. He credited Bell for his insight on car setup.
"I have to thank my teammate because he came up with a different gear strategy and it definitely helped me out," Scheckter reported. "What I learned from him put us both solidly in the top 10. If we carry on working together, we can help Chevy, help Panther and help both of our sponsors. Since the race in Texas, Chevrolet has made improvements and Panther has made improvements."
Jeff Simmons, the second addition to the Team Chevrolet roster this weekend, made his debut with Patrick Racing. Simmons is filling the seat vacated by Al Unser Jr., who announced his retirement on Wednesday. Simmons qualified Patrick Racing's Chevrolet Dallara 20th at 205.761 mph.
"It's great to be here with Patrick Racing and Chevrolet and help them develop the engine," said Simmons. "That's about the speed we did in practice. I know there was more there but we just didn't have much time to improve the car before qualifying."
Alex Barron rebounded for a crash-shortened race in Richmond to qualify Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevy 12th on the grid at 207.668 mph.
"Overall we're very happy," said Barron. "I thought we might start farther forward, but we missed the gearing a little. We showed up here with a good car, and it's a long race. Racing here is like playing Russian roulette, so you have to be patient. The track is slick in the high groove, so it could take a while for it to come in."
Felipe Giaffone's 14th spot on the starting grid is his best qualifying position since he joined the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team in May. Giaffone gained 1.3 mph between practice and qualifying with the Team Purex Chevrolet Dallara, posting a 207.098 mph lap.
"I was a little frustrated because we were trying to free the car up as much as we could," Giaffone explained. "We were trying to take drag out of the car and just kept working. Now the car feels good, and it seems we made the right changes between the sessions."
Sporting a new low-drag, close-cropped haircut for speedways, rookie Ed Carpenter circled the Kansas oval at 206.894 mph, placing his Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara 17th on the grid.
"That was our fastest time today, and anytime you can go faster in qualifying than you did in practice it's a good day," Carpenter said. "The guys did a good job coming up with as many adjustments as possible in the short time that's available. We had a great race car in Richmond and I'm sure I'll have a great race car tomorrow. We just need a few things to fall our way and we'll be in contention."
The Argent Mortgage Indy 300 will be televised live on ABC on Sunday, the Fourth of July, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.