IRL: Michigan: Panther Racing race report

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Tomas Scheckter didn't win the Michigan Indy 400 or finish in the Top Three, but his Pennzoil Panther Chevrolet was one of the best cars on the two-mile oval Sunday. Scheckter, who stormed from his starting spot of 13th all the...

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Tomas Scheckter didn't win the Michigan Indy 400 or finish in the Top Three, but his Pennzoil Panther Chevrolet was one of the best cars on the two-mile oval Sunday. Scheckter, who stormed from his starting spot of 13th all the way up to second in just 24 laps, finished 19th after an incident during his first pit stop. Townsend Bell has finished as the top Chevrolet in each of his last three starts. He started in 7th and battled his way to an 8th place finish.

Scheckter's Chevrolet was dialed-in all afternoon, and the Indy Racing League veteran was fighting with Tony Kanaan for the lead just 25 laps into the contest. It was Tomas' first pit stop, on Lap 37, that the Pennzoil Panther team ran into trouble. As Scheckter prepared to pull into his pit stall, Tora Takagi was waved out of his box, and ran directly into the left-rear wheel of the Pennzoil Chevy. The incident sent the yellow #4 sailing into the pit stall, and the left front wing smashed into the right leg of crewman Steve Namisnak as he prepared to service the car. The Panther crew changed the front wing and got Scheckter back into the action, losing only one lap.

Namisnak was diagnosed with a hairline fracture to the tibia of his right leg by the IRL medical staff, and will be re-evaluated when he returns to Indianapolis on Monday. Despite his injuries, Namisnak -- a former tank commander in the United States Army - completed his duties as vent and jack man on the Panther crew during the pit stop.

"It was hectic after the incident," Namisnak said. "I tried to hand the vent and jack to somebody and nobody could take it, because they were all scrambling to straighten the car out. So I just went ahead and finished the stop."

Tomas Scheckter:

"We were running well, and our Chevy was the car to beat today. We could get through traffic with no problem. It was another one of those great cars that the Pennzoil Panther guys put together. We were running second when we had to make our first stop. Unfortunately, the guy pitted behind me was sent out too early and ran into the back of me. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, but it definitely cost us time on the track. We ran our way up through the field several times today, and we could have been a top three car had we not had so many troubles. We've shown over and over that our Pennzoil Chevy is fast. We just need to get it together and complete one solid race."

Townsend Bell:

"Another consistent finish, and we ran well on the lead lap. In the beginning of the race we were really struggling. The car was moving around a lot in traffic, and the balance just wasn't right at times. The middle of the race was probably the best for the Menards/Johns Manville car, and that's when we felt the best in traffic. The Panther guys had a couple great stops that helped us out late. We put some front wing in and were solid at the finish and picked up some positions. It's great to have Panther as the top Chevrolet again."

Panther Tracks: Townsend Bell has finished as the top Chevrolet driver in each of his last three starts ... 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).

-www.pantherracing.com

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