Bell Finishes 9th; Scheckter Signed For 2005 FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Townsend Bell started the Chevy 500 from dead last on the grid and picked his way through the field for his second consecutive 9th place finish. Bell, who was the top Chevrolet yet...
Bell Finishes 9th; Scheckter Signed For 2005
FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Townsend Bell started the Chevy 500 from dead last on the grid and picked his way through the field for his second consecutive 9th place finish. Bell, who was the top Chevrolet yet again, finished inside the Top Ten for the fifth time this year. Townsend's best race of the season was a 5th place finish at Nashville, which was only his second start in the Indy Racing League. Tomas Scheckter started just ahead of his teammate in 20th, and made an even more dramatic push to the front. Tomas displayed his unique combination of aggression and poise during his climb into the Top Five, as he has all season long. As he approached the mid-point in the race, it was clear the yellow #4 had the power it needed to win the race. However, the team experienced a mechanical failure on Lap 96 and was unable to continue the race. He finished 18th.
The good news for Scheckter is that the 24-year-old will return to the Pennzoil Panther #4 in 2005, as his contract for next year was finalized this morning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. This will mark the first time in his IRL career that Tomas will remain with the same team for longer than one season. Despite being plagued by many unfortunate incidents this year, Scheckter, Chevrolet and the Panther Pack displayed the ability to dominate and win races.
Panther Racing has a strong history at Texas Motor Speedway, racking up four victories in its history. The 1.5-mile high-banked oval has hosted some of the most exciting races in the history of the IRL, and none was more exciting than the 2001 Championship Showdown, where Sam Hornish Jr. and the Pennzoil Panther #4 beat Helio Castroneves at the line and took the championship trophy. Panther Racing has recorded four victories at TMS, two by Hornish and another two with Scott Goodyear behind the wheel.
"We don't know what happened out there today. The temps came way up in our Pennzoil car, and we didn't want to damage anything. I'm disappointed for all the guys, but it just wasn't our day. On the bright side of things, I'm excited about coming back to Panther next season. There was a lot of stuff that didn't go our way this season, for sure, but we've developed a great relationship this year. I think Panther is going to be a force in this league again in 2005."
"We had a good solid run today. We played it smart all day in the Menards/Johns Manville car and this is about as good as we could have hoped for. A restart with three laps to go like we had was about the worst possible scenario. We needed about six laps to get going and didn't have it at the end. Chevy keeps digging, and they showed us some good things on Tomas' car this weekend, and this is good way to end out our season."
Panther Tracks: In the first Texas race this season, Scheckter finished 20th after bumping wheels with former teammate Scott Dixon, and Mark Taylor finished 17th after crashing late in the race. Taylor was running in the Top Five for the majority of the contest, after starting in 10th. Scheckter qualified for the race in 8th .... 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 2,457 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 (16), Townsend Bell (10), Mark Taylor (6), Dave Steele (2), Dan Wheldon (2), Billy Boat (1) and Robby McGehee (1).