DRAKE OR SHELTON WILL JOIN ELLIOTT & NEWMAN IN PANTHER IRL TEST CAR AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY DEC. 3-4 Jay Drake of Val Verde, Calif. and Ricky Shelton of Huntington Beach, Calif. will square off in late-November to determine the ...
DRAKE OR SHELTON WILL JOIN ELLIOTT & NEWMAN IN PANTHER IRL TEST CAR AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY DEC. 3-4
Jay Drake of Val Verde, Calif. and Ricky Shelton of Huntington Beach, Calif. will square off in late-November to determine the final participant in the December 3-4 Indy Racing League testing session planned by the Pennzoil Panther Racing Team at Texas Motor Speedway.
Panther and Pennzoil are providing tests for USAC's 1998 National Champions but a "roll-over" is in effect to bypass champions who already have IRL seat time. That means that Ryan Newman of South Bend, Ind. (third in the recently concluded Silver Crown Championship Series), joins Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Champion Tony Elliott as the first two to lock down spots in the upcoming tests. Newman emerges as a result of Silver Crown Champion Jason Leffler and runner-up Brian Tyler already being involved in the IRL.
Drake and Shelton are battling for the National Midget title but both trail Leffler going into the final three events, November 21 at Phoenix, Ariz., November 25-26 at Bakersfield, Calif. and November 28 at Las Vegas, Nev.
"I would consider this a great gift," says Drake. "Pennzoil and Panther have given us something which used to be a monetary impossibility for many of us. This chance doesn't come around very often." Drake trails Leffler by only 10 points and is focused on winning this year's USAC National Midget title. That would assure him of the test.
"This means a lot to me," says Shelton. "I don't think it's put any undue pressure on me, though. I'm just going to try to score as many points as I can in the final Midget races and hope I can end up in the right position to get the test. We had a great year and just being eligible for this is a tremendous feeling. I like being here in May and maybe I can be in a car as well."
"I've always dreamed of running Indy," says Elliott. "Hopefully we can get something put together to run the IRL next year. It would be the biggest dream come true for me. We got started late this year but when they announced this test we wanted all the more to win this championship. I saw my first 500 as a kid and I have to thank Panther and Pennzoil for giving me this opportunity."
Ryan Newman looks forward to this next step on his ladder of success. "It's amazing how much of this Indy-car technology has adapted to the USAC series and it's going to be a natural step up to get in the IRL car."
The Pennzoil Panther test session had originally been planned for Las Vegas Motor Speedway but a venue change was effected and the site is now Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth.
In related news, Australian David Besnard has earned a test in the A.J. Foyt Enterprises IRL machine and USAC's "Western States" champions are slated for Russell Racing School test sessions at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Rick Hendrix of Simi Valley, Calif. currently leads the "Western States" Midget Series standings, with races remaining at Phoenix, Ariz. November 21, Bakersfield, Calif. November 25-26 and Las Vegas, Nev. November 28. Alex Harris, also of Simi Valley, leads the TQ Midget points going into the series finales at Bakersfield November 25 and 26 and Las Vegas November 28. Jeff Gardner of Fresno, Calif. is the "Western States" Sprint car point leader entering the final two events, November 7 at Hanford, Calif. and November 28 at Las Vegas, Nev.