Panther Tests Boat Again

INDIANAPOLIS -- Billy Boat got a second audition with Panter Racing at Kentucky Speedway this week as the Pennzoil-sponsored team continues to search for its driver for 2001.

Panther was at Kentucky on Monday and Tuesday preparing for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series' inaugural Belterra Resort Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 27

Monday the team tested with Boat and primary driver Scott Goodyear. Boat completed 120 laps, turning a quick time of 24.70 seconds and a speed of 218.620 mph. Boat's fast lap is the fastest practice lap recorded at the new speedway, narrowly edging Sarah Fisher's speed of 218.517 mph, which was set July 1.

"Billy doesn't hesitate to find out how fast the car can go," said Panther team manager and co-owner John Barnes. "I have been most impressed with his consistency. Billy could run 217.5 mph all day and we had several laps in excess of 218 mph. The car is good in many configurations."

Boat continued to work well with the team, Barnes said, and his testing should help the team set up the No. 4 car.

"Panther Racing has tested nearly 1,100 miles at Kentucky Speedway over the last month," said Barnes of the five days of testing with Boat, Goodyear, Sam Hornish and Alex Barron. "Testing different drivers has been exciting and having an opportunity to work with driver's with varied backgrounds has really assisted us in developing a strong qualifying and race package. We have tried just about every conceivable set-up combination and from that we have developed a good race weekend combination."

On Tuesday, Boat, who has nine IRNLS pole positions and one victory, ran a few laps to complete a few engine modification tests that were scheduled on Monday and then Goodyear took his first laps at the new facility. Goodyear quickly got up to speed, turning his fastest lap of 216.519 mph early in the day's testing session. Andy Brown, Panther's chief engineer, agreed with Barnes that testing several drivers has helped the team and should benefit Goodyear in the race.

"We had run nearly 900 miles here before Scott got his first look at the track," Brown said. "I think presenting him a car that is already up to speed and consistent allows him to focus right away on racing for a victory and not having to go through the time and energy to search for the right setup since its already there."

And just because the team is using a lot of its testing time to track down a driver for next year, that doesn't mean they've given up on 2000.

"We're still pushing to get the Panther car into victory lane this season and we are still hoping to run for the championship," Barnes said. "As we have proved in testing, the car has the speed and consistency to run at the front and to get to victory lane. The car and the crew are ready and prepared to win."

Goodyear is just 33 points out of the IRNLS points lead with two races remaining. He has two top-five finishes and four top 10s. His worst finish is 16th at Pikes Peak.

Panther Racing will make an announcement on the 2001 driver selection later this fall.

Panther Racing test results at Kentucky Speedway:

Billy Boat -- 400 miles -- 218.623 mph (24.70 seconds)
Sam Hornish Jr. -- 250 miles -- 216.817 mph (24.90 seconds)
Scott Goodyear -- 190 miles -- 216.519 mph (24.94 seconds)
Alex Barron -- 240 miles -- 216.170 mph (24.98 seconds)

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