Rookie Tests Rained Out

Now that Tracy Hines, Kasey Kahne and Derek Davidson finally have a chance to show an Indy Racing Northern Light Series team what they can do, Mother Nature butts in.

The trio of USAC stars was scheduled take part in a rookie test with Panther Racing at Kentucky Speedway last week, but persistent rain and cold weather in the Sparta, Ky., area forced Panther to pack up at 1 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 8 and cancel the Nov. 9 session at 10 a.m. Eastern.

The team expects to reschedule the rookie test but has not decided when and where.

The first day of rain knocked Hines out of the entire test. He left the speedway Nov. 8 for California, where he will compete in a sprint car race this weekend.

"It's disappointing, for I was really looking forward to driving the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther car, but we can't control Mother Nature," Hines said. "I am, however, hopeful for another opportunity to take part in this USAC rookie program."

Panther crew chief Kevin Blanch has been in this position before. A similar rookie test was rained out last fall, and he was still holding out hope.

"That's racing. You take the good with the bad," Blanch said. "This is a great program and we definitely are hoping the weather will cooperate so we can test these USAC standouts."

It was not to be, however.

Panther co-owner John Barnes has given USAC stars a chance to pass their rookie test for three years in a row.

"By allowing these rookies to turn their first laps in an Indy car during private testing, there is less pressure and fewer distractions than what they would encounter during a normal Indy Racing Northern Light Series race weekend," said Barnes, who allowed Dave Darland, Russ Gamester and Jerry Coons Jr. to pass their rookie tests with Panther at Texas in March.

During an IRNLS rookie test, drivers must complete 40 laps broken into four 10-lap speed segments under the supervision of the IRNLS. In addition, Sam Hornish Jr., the pilot of one of Panther’s two cars in 2001, and Panther representatives were scheduled to be on hand to assist the rookies at Kentucky. In the past, Johnny Rutherford has been the IRNLS representative overseeing rookies during their testing.

The USAC stars earned the right to test the IRNLS cars through a driver development program sponsored by Pennzoil and Panther Racing. The program rewards top USAC drivers with rookie tests in the IRNLS.

Hines is the 2000 USAC Silver Crown champion; Davidson finished fifth in the 2000 USAC Sprint Car Series point standings; and Kahne is the USAC Midget Car champion. They join a growing group of other drivers who have already completed IRNLS rookie tests, including Dayton Indy Lights Championship driver Cory Witherill, road racer Chris Bingham, late model driver Brandon Erwin and USAC stars Darland, Gamester and Coons.

Related Topics:

World of Outlaws, 2000, Kasey Kahne

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