IRL: Panther test on hold

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2000 - The Indy Racing League rookie test for United States Auto Club open-wheel standouts was postponed until Nov. 9 due to rain at Kentucky Speedway. USAC stars Derek Davidson and Kasey Kahne will start...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2000 - The Indy Racing League rookie test for United States Auto Club open-wheel standouts was postponed until Nov. 9 due to rain at Kentucky Speedway. USAC stars Derek Davidson and Kasey Kahne will start their rookie tests Nov. 9 in the Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone on the 1.5-mile oval at Kentucky. USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series champion Tracy Hines withdrew from the test after the rain Nov. 8 so he could fulfill his driving commitments in a lucrative sprint-car race in Perris, Calif.

"We ran into bad weather last year during the fall USAC rookie test at Texas," said Kevin Blanch, Panther Racing crew chief. "Hopefully, we won't have to reschedule, though.

"But we'll be back tomorrow to try it again. This is a great program, and we definitely are hoping the weather will cooperate so we can test these USAC standouts."

Said Hines: "It's disappointing, for I was really looking forward to driving the #4 Pennzoil Panther car. But we can't control Mother Nature. I am, however, hopeful for another opportunity to take part in this USAC rookie program."

The tests are part of a driver development program sponsored by Pennzoil and Panther Racing in which top USAC drivers are rewarded with Indy Racing rookie tests.

Davidson, 28, from Lafayette, Ind., finished fifth in the final USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series point standings this season. But three of the four drivers who finished ahead of him - Tony Elliott, Jay Drake, J.J. Yeley - already have passed their Indy Racing rookie test. Hines also finished ahead of Davidson.

Kahne, 20, from Enumclaw, Wash., has clinched the USAC MCI WorldCom Midget Car Series standings with 1,117 points with two races remaining.

*** Bumps to manage Kelley Racing: Open-wheel veteran Tim Bumps was named Nov. 7 as team manager for Kelley Racing, which fields entries for Mark Dismore and Scott Sharp in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Bumps, an Indianapolis native, comes to Kelley Racing after managing rookie Andy Hillenburg's successful attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May. Hillenburg qualified 33rd and finished 28th. "I'm happy to be joining Kelley Racing," Bumps said. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I recently took a break from racing to allow myself time to explore and research the best teams, see what was available and make a decision based on what was best for me. Most importantly, I wanted to work with good people and a team that was committed to winning races." Sharp and Dismore have combined for five victories with Kelley Racing since the team made its full-time Northern Light Series debut in January 1998. Dismore and Sharp finished fifth and seventh, respectively, in the 2000 Northern Light Cup point standings. Bumps started his racing career in 1981 with Patrick Racing. He has been a part of five Indianapolis 500-winning teams, working on the efforts of Gordon Johncock in 1982, Al Unser in 1987, Rick Mears in 1988 and 1991 and Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993. Bumps also helped Danny Sullivan win the 1988 CART championship during his tenure with Penske Racing. "We're real excited to have someone with Tim's experience and winning background at Kelley Racing," said Jim Freudenberg, Kelley Racing general manager. "His understanding of what it takes to win on the racetrack will be a huge asset to the team."

*** Fisher saluted for success: Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver Sarah Fisher recently was recognized by Glamour magazine and Saturn Corporation as one of 100 "Women at Their Best."

Winners were recognized for their "community, career and personal accomplishments illustrating their dedication to being their best, while being an inspiration to others." Other Indiana-based winners were Jean Mullins and Kristi Stepler.

Fisher and the other winners each received a $500 prize and a limited-edition, framed photograph signed by renowned nature photographer Monte Nagler. Fisher donated her cash prize to CARA (Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary) Charities.

*** Schmidt to receive national award: Indy Racing personality Sam Schmidt will receive the Personal Achievement Award at the Gateway to a Cure annual dinner Nov. 19 in St. Louis.

Schmidt will be saluted for starting the Sam Schmidt Foundation shortly after he suffered paralysis in a testing accident in January 2000. The foundation is dedicated to raising money to help people with spinal injuries live a better life through scientific research, medical treatment, rehabilitation and the most advanced technology. Actor Christopher Reeve, who suffered paralysis in an equestrian injury, is the keynote speaker at the dinner. This will be the second achievement for Schmidt and his foundation in less than a month. More than $131,000 was raised for the Sam Schmidt Foundation during the inaugural "HallowEve" bash and fundraiser Oct. 30 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

*** Hot laps: Highlights from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Awards Ceremony, Nov. 11 in Indianapolis, will be televised from 5-6 p.m. (EST) Nov. 14 on ESPN2

... Northern Light Series standout Sarah Fisher will appear at the The Indianapolis Star Women's Expo at 12:30 p.m. (EST) Nov. 12 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Other speakers include actress Brooke Shields and singer CeCe Winans. Tickets are $5 and available throughout central Indiana at Michael's Art & Crafts and The Indianapolis Star

... A Delphi Automotive Systems Indy Racing car will be on a display tour Nov. 9 in Nashville, Tenn., as part of the promotion for the inaugural Indy Racing event at Nashville Superspeedway on July 21, 2001. Included in the tour are stops at the Lebanon, Tenn., town square and city hall and an appearance at Nashville Superspeedway. Scott Sharp drives the Delphi car in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series

... An Excite@Home Indy Racing car will be on display Nov. 11-12 at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event at the track. Indy Racing will debut in Miami on April 8, 2001. 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. drives the Excite@Home car in Indy Racing Northern Light Series competition.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Andy Hillenburg , Sam Schmidt , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Danny Sullivan , Kasey Kahne , Tracy Hines , Tony Elliott , Emerson Fittipaldi , Jay Drake , Gordon Johncock
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske