2009 IRL Team Reports: Panther Racing

IRL Team reports for the 2009 IRL season

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Postby mlittle » Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:33 am

Two-Time Motegi Winner Wheldon Returns to Japan with Panther Racing
National Guard Driver Hopes to Add to Twin Ring Motegi Victories in 2004-2005

MOTEGI, Japan - (September 16, 2009) -- In the closing laps of the 2005 race at Twin Ring Motegi, then-Panther Racing driver Tomas Scheckter held a formidable lead in the race with just two laps remaining, but his No. 4 car ran out of fuel as he approached the white flag. The unfortunate turn for Panther handed the race victory to Dan Wheldon, who captured his second consecutive race victory at Twin Ring Motegi that afternoon. Now, with Wheldon piloting the team's No. 4 National Guard entry he hopes to help Panther earn the Twin Ring Motegi Victory that escaped them four years ago.

The victory that day was Wheldon's second consecutive at Motegi, and followed his historic win at the 1.5-mile oval in 2004 -- the first in his IndyCar Series career, and the first for engine supplier Honda at their home track.

With the IndyCar Series season winding down, Wheldon currently ranks ninth in the championship chase with this weekend's race in Japan and the season finale in Homestead on October 10th. Wheldon is currently 17 points away from seventh-place Tony Kanaan, the former series champion from Andretti Green Racing.

The Honda Indy Japan will be broadcast live on Versus at 10:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday evening, with additional coverage provided by IMS Radio and XM Sirius channel 211. The league website IndyCar.com is also providing live streaming of the event online at no cost.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"I always enjoy the trip to Japan, as it's a very special and memorable place for me. I had my first win at Twin Ring Motegi in 2004, and obviously that was very special because it was the first victory for Honda at their track as well. I have such a great relationship with them, and I was honored to be a part of that moment. As far as the track, it's one of my favorites and one that I've always gone pretty well at. It's a challenge as far as ovals go and the National Guard Panther Racing car was strong a few weeks ago at Chicagoland and it has been strong here in the past, so we look forward to a good weekend."
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Postby mlittle » Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:34 am

National Guard Driver Dan Wheldon Qualifies Eighth in Japan

Two-time Twin Ring Motegi Winner Looks to Add Third Victory in Panther's No. 4 Car

MOTEGI, Japan - (September 18, 2009) -- Japan's challenging 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval was the site of Dan Wheldon's first career IndyCar Series victory in 2004, and the same victory was a landmark win for engine-supplier Honda, as it was their first win at their home track. Now, after Wheldon qualified eighth Friday afternoon for the Indy Japan 300, he hopes Motegi will play host to his first win in Panther Racing's No. 4 National Guard car.

Panther's former Indy 500 champion posted a four-lap average of 199.693 mph, which consisted of laps of 198.621, 199.755, 200.453 and 199.952 mph.

The qualification effort lands him on the outside of the fourth row, alongside Newman-Haas Lanigan driver Oriol Servia. Saturday afternoon will mark his seventh career start at Twin Ring Motegi, and in addition to his two victories in 2004-05, Wheldon has captured four podium, five Top Five and six Top Ten finishes. He won the pole position at the track in 2004.

Last season he started fifth and finished in fourth position. Panther's best career effort at the egg-shaped oval track came in 2003 when Sam Hornish Jr. finished in sixth place. Tomas Scheckter led 41 of the final 43 laps of the 2005 event here, before running out of fuel with just two laps remaining in the race.

The Honda Indy Japan will be broadcast live on Versus at 10:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday evening, with additional coverage provided by IMS Radio and XM Sirius channel 211. The league website IndyCar.com is also providing live streaming of the event online at no cost.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"It wasn't a bad run in the National Guard Panther Racing car today, we just have a little too much understeer on the exit of Turn Four. That's what we've been trying to dial out today, and we have a reasonable racecar to be quite honest, and we did a long race run with the car earlier today and it was good. I feel like we're well prepared for the race and might be just a little bit behind the Penske's and Ganassi's on the longer runs, but for the most part we're in pretty good shape. The key here is you've got to be able to get on the power real early coming out of Turns 3 and 4, and you've got to be able to drive the car in there really deep as well. Particularly if you can get on the power early, and with confidence, coming out of there you can get a good run on people coming down the straight."
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Postby mlittle » Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:52 am

Motegi: Panther Racing race report
Racing series INDYCAR
Date 2009-09-19

Caution Flag Ruins Podium Finish for Panther; Wheldon 8th in Motegi

Wheldon Runs Top Three All Day, Gets Caught Out During Hunter-Reay Crash

MOTEGI, Japan - (September 19, 2009) -- An untimely caution flag Saturday during the Indy Japan 300 ripped a podium finish away from National Guard Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon, who finished eighth in the 200-lap event. Wheldon, the only driver running with the Ganassi duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, got caught out after he pitted for the final time immediately prior to a crash involving Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The result was Wheldon's ninth Top Ten finish of the season, and he remains ninth in the IndyCar Series point standings -- 12 points behind Tony Kanaan.

After qualifying eighth for today's event, Wheldon moved up quickly in his No. 4 National Guard Honda. He passed Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and Tomas Scheckter to move into sixth position before the tenth lap of the race and then passed Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick on Lap 21 to move into the Top Five. After chasing Team Penske driver -- and championship points leader -- Ryan Briscoe for more than 20 laps, he moved passed the No. 6 car and KV Racing's Mario Moraes to claim the third position before the team's first pit stop on Lap 49.

Quick pit work by the Panther pit crew on the next three pit stops -- on Laps 49, 100 and 157, respectively -- kept Wheldon in the hunt with Dixon and Franchitti inside the Top Three. But it was following the team's last stop that Hunter-Reay crashed hard into Motegi's fourth-turn wall, bringing out a caution flag. Having just pitted, the untimely caution caught Wheldon out and he was forced to take the final restart in eighth position behind several lapped cars.

The IndyCar Series season will conclude in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a track where Panther and Wheldon -- respectively -- have captured victories in five of the eight IndyCar Series races held at the track. The Firestone Indy 300 will be held Saturday, October 10th with live coverage provided by VERSUS, the IMS Radio Network and XM Sirius Channel 211.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"It was really good to be back and running up front again, and obviously from the entire Panther Racing team standpoint I feel everybody did an excellent job. The engineering staff made a big change last night for the race and it was very positive and I could see that it made the car very nice to drive today and certainly when catching lapped traffic I was able to make a lot of time up. Unfortunately it was one of those things for us today; we got caught on the yellow flag. But like I said everybody here has put a lot of effort into this weekend and unfortunately they weren't rewarded. We again showed that we can run with the best."
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Postby mlittle » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:38 am

Wheldon, Panther Combo Look for More History at Homestead-Miami

Driver and Team Have Been Victorious in Five of Eight Races Held on 1.5-mile Oval

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - (September 19, 2009) -- Of all the tracks on the IndyCar Series circuit, Panther Racing and National Guard driver Dan Wheldon have experienced the most collective success on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- where team and driver, respectively, have won five of the eight IndyCar races held there since 2001. The series will return to the Florida racetrack this weekend for the season-ending Firestone Indy 300 on Saturday afternoon.

In all, Panther has captured two victories at the track (2001-02) with Sam Hornish Jr. and Wheldon set a league record with three consecutive wins there (2005, 2006 and 2007) earlier in his career. Wheldon's streak of victories came during stints with two different teams, Andretti-Green Racing (2005) and Ganassi Racing (2006-07) while Panther won IndyCar Series championships each season where it won at Homestead.

And while the promotion entering the race is focused on one of the IndyCar Series' tightest championship battles in history, featuring Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Team Penske pilot Ryan Briscoe, Wheldon and Panther have shown in the last two events -- held at Chicago and Japan -- that their No. 4 car has the speed to be a factor in the race on Saturday. Unfortunately for Wheldon, a broken half-shaft at Chicago and an ill-timed caution in Japan left the former Indy 500 champion unable to show what he had when the race was at its most crucial point.

Wheldon won't be fighting for a championship Saturday -- the team is currently ninth in the standings -- but what he hopes for is to be challenging for his first race victory as a member of Panther Racing.

The Firestone Indy 300 will be broadcast live on VERSUS at 4 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, www.indycar.com, and XM Sirius Channel 211.

Fisher House Foundation President Dave Coker Presents Barnes with "Patriot Award"

Panther Racing team owner John Barnes was honored by the Fisher House Foundation Thursday during a day of activities for National Guard Soldiers at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Barnes, who has visited Wounded Warriors across the country the last two seasons, has also made stops to Fisher House facilities at St. Petersburg (Fla.), Richmond (Va.), and Palo Alto (Calif.) this season.

Fisher House Foundation Dave Coker presented Barnes with the organization's "Patriot Award", which was established in 2002 as a means to recognize "extraordinary efforts supporting the quality of life of our greatest national treasure -- our military service men and women, and their families."

"For the hospitality and generosity you've shown to our families throughout the season," Coker told Barnes during the presentation. "I don't even know how many hundreds you've hosted, but you, Panther and Dan (Wheldon) have let our families know that there are those who care about them in their time of need. And you have honored them this season."

"You can see how much better the healing process is for the Soldiers when we visit them and their families at the Fisher House," Barnes said. "What they do is incredible, and we just feel honored to be able to help in a little way and carry their logo on our racecar. It's such a privilege to be aligned with them, and we look forward to doing that in the future."

The Fisher House supports injured service men and women by providing "comfort homes", built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. The homes enable family members to be close to their loved ones as the most stressful times -- during the hospitalization of an unexpected illness, disease or injury. Families are not charged for the time they stay at the home.

Indy Lights Team Looks for Repeat at Homestead

In Firestone Indy Lights, the team comes into the race as the defending race winner, as team newcomer Dillon Battistini took the top step of the podium in 2008 just a week after he signed with the team. Battistini's teammate at the time, former NASCAR driver Brent Sherman, finished third that day to give Panther two drivers on the podium for the first time in team history.

Panther drivers Martin Plowman and Pippa Mann currently sit 11th and 14th in the championship standings, respectively, entering the final race of the season. Plowman is currently on a streak of four consecutive Top Ten finishes, and has also collected two Top Five results during the season. Pippa is especially excited about the race because she finished first overall on the speed chart during a preseason test on the 1.5-mile oval.

The Indy Lights Race will be held Friday evening at 6 p.m. (EST).

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:

"It's definitely a track that I feel very confident around and obviously my finishing record there speaks for itself. I'm very comfortable running the car loose on the ovals, and a lot of these 1.5-mile tracks always tend to suit my style. But being realistic we haven't tested there, we missed one day prior to the start of the season and then we have not tested there since and the majority of the team's have. So that will put us on the back foot a little bit, but if you look at the momentum we've created at both Chicago and Motegi, it shows that the National Guard car is very strong, it's just very important that we come out and have a strong first practice and build upon that. And I'm sure if we do that we'll certainly be in contention to win. And I'd hate to end this season having not won a race, so that's our motivation."

Martin Plowman, No. 15 Firestone Indy Lights:

"Homestead is our last race of the season, so I am determined to finish the season on a real high note. We had a very strong test there at the start of the season, so I would like to think that we will have a strong package for the race. Having said that, a lot of teams have made huge developments throughout the season, so we will have to be pushing to the limit from the first green lap and perform at no less than 110%, but I am confident we can achieve a good result."

Pippa Mann, No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights:

"Homestead was the very first oval I ran on, and is still my favorite oval I have run on other than Indy. We ran very well there at the test at the start of the year. We have a fast car in clean air there, but what I now understand about oval racing is I will need to try and find a good car for running traffic and passing before we get into the race. That said, however, I cannot wait to get back down to Miami and shake the cobwebs off from spending nearly 4 weeks out of a car!"

www.danwheldon.com
www.pantherracing.com
www.NationalGuard.com
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Postby mlittle » Sun Oct 11, 2009 12:40 am

Homestead: Panther Racing qualifying report
Racing series INDYCAR
Date 2009-10-09

Wheldon Qualifies Fourteenth for Homestead Season Finale

Former League Champ has Finished on Podium in Five of Six Career Starts on Oval

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - (October 9, 2009) -- Three-time Homestead-Miami Speedway winner Dan Wheldon qualified 14th on Friday afternoon for the Firestone Indy 300, which will be the final race of the 2009 IndyCar Series season. The race will be highlighted by a three-way battle for the series title, but Wheldon and his National Guard Panther Racing team could reach as high as fifth in the point standings with a good finish and some good luck in tomorrow's event.

The team's four-lap qualifying average of 210.407 mph was comprised of laps of 210.362, 210.514, 210.498 and 210.524 mph.

Wheldon qualified on pole here in 2007, the lone win from the point here in his three race victories. He has finished on the podium in each of his last five starts, and has never finished outside the Top Ten in his six starts on the 1.5-mile oval. Panther has two poles in its history at the track in 2002 with Sam Hornish Jr. and more recently with Tomas Scheckter in 2005.

While championship competitors Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will capture most of the attention tomorrow as they duel for the league crown, Wheldon still hopes to conclude the 2009 season with a race victory. In his first full season with the team, the former Indy 500 winner has captured three Top Five and nine Top Ten finishes.

The Firestone Indy 300 will be broadcast live on VERSUS at 4 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, www.indycar.com, and XM Sirius Channel 211.

Plowman Finishes Seventh in Indy Lights Race at Homestead; Pippa Finishes Eighth

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- A spirited battle amongst Panther's Firestone Indy Lights teammates concluded the season for the team's developmental squad with Martin Plowman and Pippa Mann finishing seventh and eighth, respectively. Plowman started in 17th after a mechanical issue prevented him from making a qualification run while Pippa posted her best start of the season with a third-place qualification effort.

Plowman and Pippa began a side-by-side battle on Lap 29 that was one of the closest and most aggressive of the season for either driver. Plowman had climbed from 17th and past Pippa for ninth place on Lap 21, but the English duo would trade spots several times before the day was done. Pippa would pass her teammate for seventh on Lap 35 and began to stretch a healthy lead on the No. 15 car before a caution period on Lap 48 brought the field back together. Plowman's fastest lap of the race came on Lap 64 as he moved past Pippa for the final time, just four laps from the checkered flag. She fought back alongside Plowman on the final lap, but it was Martin who would finish seventh to claim his fourth consecutive Top Ten finish of the season.

The Homestead race concludes the season with Plowman moving up to 11th place on the final Indy Lights championship standings, and Pippa ended her rookie season in the series in 14th position in the point chase.

Injury for Longtime Crewman Barnes Puts Replacement Jamie Nanny on Pit Crew

A go-karting accident last weekend has forced longtime Panther veteran crewman Doug Barnes to remain home in Indianapolis for this weekend's IndyCar Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Barnes -- who changed the inside-front tire on Wheldon's No. 4 National Guard crew - will be replaced by Jamie Nanny, the team's Shop Foreman, who last worked on a pit crew as the air-jack man for Hideki Mutoh, when the Japanese star started one race for Panther at Chicagoland in 2007. Nanny will assume Barnes' position on the inside-front tire, marking the first time he's changed a tire since working on Greg Ray's pit crew prior to arriving at Panther.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:

"It was a good effort by everybody at the National Guard Panther Racing team. We had a tough time in practice today, but that goes to show that our guys continue to work hard and we've certainly got a reasonable baseline to start the race tomorrow. Because of the problems we had we carried a little bit too much downforce on the car in qualifications, which is unlike me. But I'm sure we'll bounce back for the race and the guys will do a great job."

Martin Plowman, No. 15 Firestone Indy Lights:

"I wanted to put on a good show for the guys as a present for all their hard work this year but I was very disappointed in practice one and practice two which I was seriously down in speed without explanation. My teammate was doing a good job and we had the same setup, but I was way down in the charts. We had to change the engine and we didn't make it in time for qualifying, so I started dead last. I had a good start even without knowing what to expect from the car and drove my way up to seventh place. It's not a great result but coming all the way from the back it's kind of cool. We never gave up and the hard work from the guys paid off. I'd like to thank my crew for everything they've done this year, this was the best crew I ever had."

Pippa Mann, No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights:

"We had a pretty good car in the race but after the second lap I realized that we had too much downforce in the car, which made me slow in the straights. When the race settled down I found my pace in seventh place. On the last lap I got dropped back to eighth when in the very last corner I got forced into the wall and even banged wheels with the car that was on the inside. I don't think that is right, but there is nothing I can do about it now. I'm just glad that the banging wheels and putting me into the wall didn't end up with both cars being wrecked."
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