IRL: Kentucky: Panther Racing preview

FORT MITCHELL, Ken. -- If Panther Racing can get both their Chevrolets as hooked up as they were in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 in 2003, the race this season could be a two-man show. After winning the pole at Kentucky Speedway last season,...

FORT MITCHELL, Ken. -- If Panther Racing can get both their Chevrolets as hooked up as they were in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 in 2003, the race this season could be a two-man show. After winning the pole at Kentucky Speedway last season, Panther driver Sam Hornish, Jr. lapped all but two cars in the field on his way to Panther's first victory of the season. The dominant victory is just one race in a long line of success at the 1.5-mile oval.

In fact, Panther Racing has never left Kentucky without a podium finish. In addition to two pole positions and a total of 258 laps led, the team has a victory, two second place finishes and a third on its Kentucky Speedway resume. Tomas Scheckter started seventh here a year ago and finished tenth. During his rookie season in 2002, the Indy Racing League veteran started 17th and finished 22nd. The Belterra Casino Indy 300 will be Townsend Bell's first career start in Kentucky, and his fifth in the IRL.


FORT MITCHELL, Ken. - Several Panther Racing crewmembers have indicated that this weekend's race is dedicated to injured vent and jack man Steve Namisnak, who was injured during an accident on pit road during the Michigan Indy 400. "Snak" - as he's known to teammates - broke his right leg after Tora Takagi's car collided with Tomas Scheckter's Chevrolet, sending the yellow #4 directly into the awaiting crew. Takagi's crew chief had waved him out of the pit box, failing to see Scheckter's car approaching. He has since been fined for his negligence. Snak completed his pit stop duties despite a broken tibia in his right leg.

During a visit to the Panther Racing shop in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Namisnak said he plans to be out of uniform for the next three races, but hopes to be recovered and able to return to his over-the-wall pit duties for the final three races of the season. The former United States Army Tank Commander found some humor in the incident during his visit to the shop.

"I always wanted to go my whole life without breaking a bone," Snak said. "But, I figure it it's going to happen, might as well get some national media coverage out of it. Most guys break their leg falling in the bath tub."

Tomas Scheckter:

"We're really looking forward to the run at Kentucky Speedway. While the track itself can be pretty bumpy on occasion, the Pennzoil Panther team has always had strong cars there. Our engineering staff seems to have figured out how to make the car handle really well anywhere on the track. I remember last year watching the yellow Panther car dominate all the rest of us and wishing I was driving it. Well, this year I will be and I can hardly wait. It should be a great race for teams and fans alike. We're also hoping that Steve Namisnak, our vent and jack man, who was injured at Michigan, might be able to join us for the race. This one is for him!"

Townsend Bell:

""This is going to be my first race at Kentucky and we're all looking forward to it. I've heard some good things from the engineers about the car they had there last year, so we're hoping that success continues. We've been really consistent the last three races and we continue to take little steps forward each time we go out. It's nice to finish as the top Chevrolet, and this race we're looking to battle with Tommy (teammate Tomas Scheckter) for that honor. It should be fun."

Panther Tracks: Panther Racing has led laps in each of its four starts at Kentucky Speedway ... Townsend Bell has finished as the top Chevrolet driver in each of his last three starts ... Mark Taylor won the pole at Kentucky in the Menards Pro Series last season for Panther, but was unable to start the race due to illness .... 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 2,448 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 (10), Mark Taylor (6), Townsend Bell (4), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1). -- -- -- --

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Robby McGehee , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Tora Takagi , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Dave Steele , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing