Meira Looks for St. Pete Top Five; Indy Lights Drivers Battle for Championship Lead St. Petersburg, Fla. -- After a successful start to the 2008 season, Panther Racing and its trio of drivers set their sights on the Streets of St. Petersburg,...
Meira Looks for St. Pete Top Five; Indy Lights Drivers Battle for Championship Lead
St. Petersburg, Fla. -- After a successful start to the 2008 season, Panther Racing and its trio of drivers set their sights on the Streets of St. Petersburg, site of this weekend's IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which includes a pair of Firestone Indy Lights races. Panther's Indy Lights team enters the weekend holding the championship points lead with Dillon Battistini, whose teammate Brent Sherman is close behind in the third position.
Vitor Meira: Unfinished Business
Vitor Meira has finished in fifth place in two of his three starts at St. Pete, including his second career start with Panther Racing in 2006. Meira was running well at the street course last season before a gearbox failure ended his team's run in 16th. Now, with the IndyCar Series changing to paddle shifters on their cars, Meira hopes he can steer his No. 4 Delphi National Guard Honda through tough competition and into Victory Lane.
"I was watching a copy of last year's race today and it reminded me how strong the No. 4 car was during the race. It was a shame we had the gearbox failure because I felt like we had something for the leaders that day. But now, with the paddle shifts added to our cars, that isn't something we'll have to worry as much about and we can focus on having a good race. We can always improve, and the Delphi National Guard car wasn't perfect in Homestead, but we came away with an OK finish. This weekend is a race we all look forward to, and with the Champ Car guys in the mix, it's going to be a fun race."
Dillon Battistini: Indy Lights Points Leader
It didn't take Panther newcomer Dillon Battistini long to get a handle on the Firestone Indy Lights series last weekend in Homestead, where the British driver started from the front row and made a late-race pass for a victory in his first career start in the series. Battistini, who enters the weekend as the series points' leader, will now tackle the St. Petersburg street course, a much more familiar track than the 1.5-mile oval he conquered just a week ago.
"I'm really looking forward to the weekend here in St. Pete. I just still can't believe how great a weekend the team had in Homestead after such a rush to get our car prepared. It's still amazing to me that we won that race but now it's time to focus forward on this course. We tested yesterday in Sebring and overcame a few problems that should really be a help this weekend."
Brent Sherman: Knocking Off the Rust
Brent Sherman knows this weekend in St. Petersburg isn't going to be easy, as the former NASCAR driver transitions back to street course racing after spending a bulk of the past four years in stock cars on oval tracks. After a podium finish in Homestead, where Sherman made a monumental climb on the grid in the final two laps of the race, he knows he's got to perform his best on the road and street course events to keep pace in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship battle.
"We had the test is Sebring this week that helped knock off some of the rust but we still have some work to do. I know I've got some work ahead of me, but I'm not going to be a slouch out here. I raced in some road course events in the NASCAR Busch Series in the past few years, so this isn't something that will be completely new to me, but it's a matter of getting comfortable in these open-wheel cars again so I can be competitive. I'm excited to get out there."