Season Of Discontent
September 15, 2004 | 10:34 A.M. EST
Starting at the back of the field because of an engine change a day earlier, Scheckter drove the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone to third by Lap 32 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 12. He was running sixth on Lap 75 and was looking forward to his first top-10 finish since the IRL IndyCar Series opener in February.
But on Lap 130, he was disappointed again.
The right-front tire of the No. 20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone driven by Jaques Lazier made contact with the right-rear tire of the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone of Vitor Meira exiting Turn 1. The bump sent Lazier’s car into the SAFER Barrier.
Scheckter, getting caught behind Lazier in the “dirty air,” also made contact with the wall. He was in ninth place.
“We had to change the motor out, but it didn’t even matter because we were so quick out there,” said Scheckter, who has been running at the end of six of 14 events. “The Pennzoil car moved all the way from last to the front of the field in about 18 laps. I felt like our luck had turned the corner.
“I was running great and Meira comes by and tags Lazier right in front of me. I got lost in his dirty air, and without the downforce I couldn’t keep the car out of the wall. There are still two races left, and we’ll get it right.”
Lazier, who started 20th because of a post-qualifying engine change, was running seventh at the time of the incident.
“We are extremely disappointed with what happened,” he said. “In the corners our car was good. We fell behind early but came back up and we were easily running in the Top 10.”
Meira continued and, despite a right-rear tire puncture late in the race, finished fifth.
The first 86 laps were run under green, an IndyCar Series record for Chicagoland Speedway. The Series record is 146 laps at Kentucky in 2003.