Texas Motor Speedway Front Row Belongs to Panther Racing FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Panther Racing swept the front row during qualifications Thursday for the Bombardier Learjet 500k at Texas Motor Speedway. IndyCar Series veteran Tomas Scheckter put...
Texas Motor Speedway Front Row Belongs to Panther Racing
FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Panther Racing swept the front row during qualifications Thursday for the Bombardier Learjet 500k at Texas Motor Speedway. IndyCar Series veteran Tomas Scheckter put his Chevrolet engine on the pole while rookie teammate Tomas Enge nailed down the outside of the front row. This is Scheckter's second pole of the 2005 season, and the Panther duo helped give Chevrolet it's first front row sweep since September 2002 at TMS.
Scheckter set the pace with a top lap of 213.847 mph, 24.4942 seconds. Enge was right behind his veteran teammate with a top lap of 212.861 mph, 24.6076 seconds.
Scheckter has seven career IndyCar Series poles, which ranks him 4th on the series' all-time list with Tony Stewart. This is his third career pole at Texas, and Tomas has started from the point in two of the first six races this season.
Enge was once again the top rookie qualifier, which is the fourth time this season. Enge also equaled the best start for a rookie in 2005, tying Danica Patrick's effort at Japan earlier this year. Saturday will mark his third start from inside the Top 5, and the 28-year-old has started inside the Top Ten at every race he has qualified for this season.
Tomas Scheckter started from the pole in his first two career starts at Texas Motor Speedway in 2002 and 2003, and led a total of 252 laps combined in both of those races. Scheckter started 8th at Texas in June last year with Panther Racing, and was running well until making contact with Scott Dixon early in the contest. Tomas was also running well at the season-finale at TMS before a mechanical problem stuck the Pennzoil team with an 18th-place finish.
Enge was the top rookie qualifier in the first three races of the season before missing the Japan race with a pair of broken ribs. He started 10th in the Indianapolis 500 and finished 19th after fellow rookie Danica Patrick spun into his RockStar sidepod. Enge's best career IndyCar Series finish came at TMS last season, when he finished 13th with Patrick Racing.
Panther Racing has a total four victories at Texas Motor Speedway -- two each by Scott Goodyear (Texas I, 1999 & Texas II, 2000) and Sam Hornish, Jr. (Texas II, 2001 & Texas II, 2002). Hornish started from the pole in the 2001 Texas season-ending race. The Pennzoil Panther team left Texas in 2001 and 2002 as IndyCar Series Champions. The 2002 duel for the championship with Helio Castroneves is arguably one of the best races in IndyCar Series history.
"I think Chevy is smiling right now. We knew we'd be good, but not this good. I like Texas, I like the racing and I enjoy going two- and three-wide all the way around this track. I'm coming back with a win Saturday night no matter what. It's overdue. I made up my mind that I'm going to get it done and there are no more excuses. My engineer, (David Cripps) came up with some ideas in the last session that jumped our speeds way up on the charts. We all are thankful to Pennzoil and Chevrolet to come back after the Indy we had and really make a statement like this. You know, for sure, with Chevrolet -- some companies would pack it in during their last year, but these guys are the exact opposite. I think it's going to be a crazy, crazy race -- I just know it. The last time I was here I started at the back and by Lap 30 I was sitting in the Top Three. This team always seems to put it together here, and I have to thank them for all their hard work so far this weekend."
"First of all, it's nice to be up front and Chevrolet has to be excited about this one. It is a surprise for everybody, but not for us. We knew we had a good engine, we just have to put everything together in the race. It's something special as a night race, and I think our luck will turn around because we haven't seen the checkered flag yet this year. Now we just have to set up the cars as best we can for the Saturday race. I did the race last year here at the end of the season and I learned a lot how to drive in traffic. In this series you want to run with the best drivers, and that's who we will be with up front. Obviously we can play a good game with Tomas because we are first and second. I think this race will suit us well, and so far so good here in Texas. This is only qualifications, and the most important thing is coming on Saturday and the race is always something different, so we'll have to see."
Doug Boles, Panther co-owner:
"You know, we were really looking to get some momentum, especially after the misfortune we had at Indy having two cars taken out. It's great to grab the front row here for Chevy and especially for Pennzoil as this is their backyard."