IRL: St. Pete: Panther Racing race report

Panther Finishes the Race 16th & 17th St. Petersburg, Fla. -- A pair of incidents late in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg landed Panther Racing with the 16th and 17th spots on the final grid. Tomas Enge, who started 5th after he qualified for...

Panther Finishes the Race 16th & 17th

St. Petersburg, Fla. -- A pair of incidents late in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg landed Panther Racing with the 16th and 17th spots on the final grid. Tomas Enge, who started 5th after he qualified for the Firestone Fast Six yesterday, was the 16th-place finisher after a strong run Sunday. Tomas Scheckter finished 17th following contact with the tire barrier, despite running as high as second place late in the race.

Enge stayed in fifth at the start of the race, and consistently had one of the fastest racecars on the track. During a pit stop on Lap 16 the fuel probe would not engage properly with Enge's Chevrolet, and the IndyCar Series rookie fell to the back of the field. The 28-year-old was unfazed and picked off his opponents one-by-one, until finally taking the lead on Lap 76 as teams cycled through pit stops. However, Enge made contact with Sam Hornish, Jr. on Turn Four of the 14-turn street course, which ended his day in 16th. He led four laps total, the first time he has led laps in the IndyCar Series.

Scheckter qualified eighth -- his third top eight start in three races -- and jumped to 6th within the first two laps of the race. The IndyCar Series veteran climbed through the field and reached second place by Lap 65 with help from his Pennzoil crew in the pits. But shortly before his last pit stop, Scheckter brushed the wall and caused minor damage to his Chevy's suspension. Tomas didn't realize the extent of the damage until he returned to the track after the stop, and he slid into the tire barrier on Turn Eight. He finished 17th.

Enge has been the top rookie qualifier in all three events this season -- including two Top Fives.

Panther Racing will participate in a Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday with Byrd Brothers/Panther Racing driver Buddy Lazier, who will drive the No.95 Jonathan Byrds Cafeteria/ESPN 950 Chevrolet in the 89th Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May.

Tomas Enge:

"I don't know what to say. That racecar was just unbelievable today. The handling was amazing and the engine was strong. We had to take our last pit stop towards the end and we were going to work our RockStar car into a solid finish. We had some problems in the pits and so we had to fight our way back up all day. After the restart I was trying to make a move to pick up as many positions as possible. Hornish and Matsuura were dicing, and both cars moved down to the right and I held my line on the left. We were already in the braking zone when he moved into my line and I was pretty close to him, so I had no chance to avoid the accident."

Tomas Scheckter:

"I was trying to tuck in behind Briscoe as tightly as possible before our last pit stop. At one point I brushed the wall and bent some of the suspension in our Chevy. I didn't realize how bad the suspension was until we got back on the track. There was some play in the wheel, and with a full load of fuel and new tires, I had my hands full. It's too bad. It was a great weekend from everybody on the Pennzoil team and Chevrolet is going to get some great results soon with the great engines they're giving us."

-pr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Buddy Lazier , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing