2009 IRL Team Reports: Panther Racing

IRL Team reports for the 2009 IRL season

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Postby mlittle » Sun May 10, 2009 2:15 am

INDY CRASH A SETBACK FOR SHARP AND THE PATRON PANTHER CREW

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Friday, May 8, 2009: Tequila Patron driver Scott Sharp suffered a setback in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today with a turn one crash putting the #16 Panther Racing car out of action.

Sharp was coming up to speed on his second run of the day when the car spun exiting the first turn. The Panther Racing car spun through the short shoot apron before sliding back up the banking into the safer barrier - inflicting severe damage to the right-hand-side of the car.

In preparation for tomorrow's first day of qualifying, the team had begun aerodynamically trimming out the car in search of outright speed just prior to the accident. Sharp visited the infield care center after the crash but was not injured in the impact.

The Panther Racing crew have now stripped the #16 car and sent the tub of the Tequila Patron-sponsored car back to its shop in Indianapolis for repairs.

Sharp, Tequila Patron and Panther Racing now face a race against time to get back on track in time for pole day qualifying. The Jupiter, FL driver may now have to set his sights on clinching a spot in his 14th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when the grid spots 12 to 22 will be locked in.

SCOTT SHARP
"It was a tough day today. Our crash was obviously a bit of a setback and pretty disappointing. We struggled for speed a little earlier in the day in the Tequila Patron car and we were working down to a qualifying type set-up on the run when I crashed.

"We made a change to the rear downforce and a corresponding change to the front to balance the car.

"Unfortunately, we ended up with way more front downforce than we would have liked and the first time I leaned on the car it snapped around.

"I tried to keep it off the wall - I missed the first one but it spun down to the apron and then back up the banking again and had a pretty solid it.

"We ended up with quite a bit of right hand side damage. The Panther Racing boys are getting stuck in to try to fix the car but unfortunately we ended up with some damage to the shelf part of the tub and we have to get some carbon work done.

"The guys have taken the tub back to the shop to work on it overnight and they'll bring it back to finish putting it together in the morning.

"Hopefully, we can make it back out tomorrow afternoon but we'll probably end up aiming to be a second day qualifyer.

"The spin caught me completely by surprise. It just snapped when I was right at the exit of turn one and I thought we were OK because it spun right away from the outside wall.

"I was trying to slow it down, jumping on the brakes as hard as I could but nothing was really happening. The tires were pretty flat spotted or blown out at that stage.

"I was looking left and right trying to keep it off the wall but once it hit the hinge point where the banking meets the apron it shot me straight up into the fence."
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Postby mlittle » Sun May 10, 2009 12:59 pm

Panther Rebuilds No. 4 Car, Runs Out of Time for Indy Qualification; Impressive Effort from Team Unrewarded After Bouncing Back from Wheldon Practice Crash

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 9, 2009) -- The most impressive effort at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday during Pole Day qualifications went unrewarded, as Panther Racing team members rebuilt an entire racecar following Dan Wheldon's practice crash, but were stuck in the qualification line as the gun sounded to concluded the first day of qualifications for the 93rd Indianapolis 500.

The team elected to bypass its original spot in qualifications, instead waiting to spend more time practicing before attempting to make the 33-car field. The practice went well, and Wheldon had posted a lap at over 223.6 mph. In what was planned to be one final run prior to entering the qualification line, Wheldon got loose in the middle of turn two and backed his No. 4 car into the outside retaining wall. The damage on the car was significant, but Panther was far from done for the day.

Once the damaged car returned to the garage, there was still roughly three hours before the final gun concluded the day's qualifications. Realizing the overall damage to the National Guard car wasn't as devastating as originally feared, the team elected to do everything it could to put its former Indy 500 winning driver back on the track. The car's rebuild was substantial, as the team had to disassemble the entire care to change the Honda engine, repair damage to the underwing, and rebuild the rear suspension.

With help from both the National Guard crew and Scott Sharp's Tequila Patron team, the car was on the setup pad with final tweaks being put into place with just under an hour remaining in the day. But by the time the car made it through the Indy Racing League technical inspection, and out to pit lane of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there were too many other competitors in line to allow for either a practice run or a qualification attempt.

Panther's other entry for the race is Tequila Patron driver Scott Sharp, who was involved in a minor incident during Fast Friday practice. The team elected to wait until tomorrow to make a qualification attempt with the No. 16 car, as the crew works on repairing the damage from yesterday's incident. Sharp won the pole at Indianapolis in 2001, and will be making his first career start with Panther Racing in the '500' later this month. The full-time ALMS driver with Highcroft Racing will be in Utah next week for the event there, before returning to Indianapolis the week of the race.

Both cars will attempt to make the field during tomorrow's qualification efforts.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"In terms of the guys getting the car back together; they did an excellent job and their commitment to getting me back out there was second to none. I'm really proud of those guys and it's a good reflection on everybody in the National Guard too. A lot of our mechanics within the team have seen the worth ethic from the Soldiers that are part of the Guard and the fact they are honorable and they never give up. And I think you saw the same traits from the Panther boys today."

(On the incident) I just got loose, we'd been working on the rear end of the car in practice. It's a shame for the National Guard Panther team, but it didn't damage the car too bad. We'd done a reasonable run just prior to that one, and we were just trying to make it a little better and the biggest thing we were working on was the balance of the car."

John Barnes, Panther Racing CEO and Co-Owner:

"I'm really proud of these guys today. It was a phenomenal effort. Most people would have rolled over and waited until tomorrow. Under (Chief Mechanic) Dan Miller's direction they got the job done and we had the No. 4 car out there and ready to run. Indiana National Guard Adjutant General (Martin) Umbarger was here and he said that, 'There was no talking, no yelling, no screaming, just work.' And a compliment like that from him means more to myself and this team than I could ever express."
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 12, 2009 12:53 pm

SUNDAY QUALIFYING SPOT THE MOTHER'S DAY TARGET FOR SHARP AND THE PATRON CREW

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Saturday, May 9, 2009: Former Indy 500 pole-sitter Scott Sharp is aiming to lock in a starting position for his 14th Indianapolis 500 tomorrow after a tremendous fightback from the Tequila Patron Panther Racing crew in the past 24 hours.

Sharp will be fighting for a position from 12th to 22nd on the grid in second day qualifying on Mother's Day tomorrow.

The no.16 machine was unable to fight for a spot on pole day after sustaining heavy damage in an accident on Friday.

The Panther Racing crew worked through the night and returned the car to the track by 3:00pm today to complete final reassembly and set-up

Unfortunately for the Indianapolis-based squad, Sharp's team-mate Dan Wheldon also suffered a crash today - making for a busy 24 hours for the crew.

Both Sharp and Wheldon will have three opportunities to lock in a time tomorrow around the 2.5 mile speedway. Regardless of the speed run on Sunday, the highest either driver can qualify will be 12th.

The final 11 grid positions will be locked away next Saturday with bump day scheduled for Sunday. Sharp is aiming to lock down his starting position tomorrow as he will be continuing his American Le Mans Series championship challenge for Patron Highcroft Racing at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsports Park next weekend.

Tomorrow's second day of qualifying will be shown live on the Versus network.

SCOTT SHARP
"It has been a huge team effort from the Panther Racing boys in the past 24 hours. The carbon guys did an amazing job in repairing the tub. The got the car around 5-6pm yesterday and had it back in the shop at 10pm - just incredible.

"They had the engine back in by midnight and we could have taken a shot of really thrashing to get the car out there today but we wouldn't have had much practice time with all the qualifying runs happening.

"The conditions were pretty tough out there and we really wanted to be thorough and make sure that everything was right.

"That was certainly the right call. Sneaking into the top 11 would have been a big challenge but being a few more spots back is really not going to make a huge difference on race day.

"It is more important that we have everything right, get back on track tomorrow and get the Tequila Patron car in the show.

"I really feel for the boys because they have had to put my teammate Dan Wheldon's car back together as well. He had some pretty good speed and looked like he was set for a good qualifying run before his crash - it was a real shame for the whole Panther team."
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 12, 2009 1:08 pm

SHARP PUTS THE TEQUILA PATRON CAR IN THE INDY 500 FIELD IN LAST GASP ATTEMPT

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Sunday, May 10, 2009: Scott Sharp has started the Indy 500 from the pole position previously, but he has never been more delighted to simply secure a spot in the field than after today's high drama second day of qualifying.

After withdrawing his first qualifying run, then being bumped from the field by AJ Foyt IV, the Tequila Patron driver made one final attempt to secure his 14th Indianapolis 500 start - leaving the line with 23 seconds remaining in the day.

After his two previous runs had come up short, the Panther Racing crew made further changes - taking even more downforce out of the car - and the inaugural Indy Racing League co-champion held his nerve to record a four lap average of 222.162mph to qualify 20th and push EJ Viso from the field.

With only six minutes remaining, Sharp sat aboard the #16 Tequila Patron/Muscle Milk entry with four cars ahead of him in the qualifying line.

The 13-time Indy starter began to run through the extensive planning he would have to undertake to fly back and forth from his American Le Mans Series duties in Salt Lake City next weekend for Patron Highcroft Racing to return to the Speedway for a Saturday qualifying attempt.

However, after Ryan Hunter-Reay's attempt fell short, Alex Tagliani's attemp was waived off and two cars pulled out of line, Sharp hit the track with seconds remaining and 10 miles later joined his Panther Racing team-mate Dan Wheldon in the field.

When the final 11 positions on the grid are filled next Saturday, Sharp will be in Salt Lake City preparing for the fourth round of the ALMS for the factory-backed Acura LMP1 squad alongside teammate David Brabham.

The ALMS race takes place at the Miller Motorsports Park circuit on the same day at Bump Day in Indy, May 17.

Sharp - who currently leads the LMP1 division points championship with Brabham - will then return to Indianapolis for the final week of race preparations.
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 12, 2009 1:09 pm

Sharp Beats the Gun, Makes the Show; Wheldon Qualifies 18th at Indy; Sharp Gets Bumped From Field Late, Makes Dramatic Last-Gasp Run to Make Indy Field

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 10, 2009) -- After crashes put a damper on the qualification efforts of both Panther Racing drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Sharp, the team's Indianapolis 500 duo bounced back during qualifications on Sunday to make the show for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Wheldon qualified early in the afternoon and will start in the 18th position, and Sharp will be just two spots behind in 20th, but his path to making the field for the race was much more dramatic.

With the clock winding down on the day, Sharp was without a spot in the field and sitting in the IndyCar Series tech line with a line of cars in front of him.

Earlier, he had made one qualification run -- which the team withdrew -- then made a second attempt and qualified with a four-lap average of 221.333 mph, but was bumped out of the field by A.J. Foyt IV with only 10 minutes left in the day. His No. 16 Tequila Patron car was pushed into the tech line, but there was a line of cars between Sharp and his final chance to become one of the 22 cars that would be locked into the field. But, with limited time remaining, several cars pulled out of line and Sharp was able to begin his run as the gun sounded to conclude the day.

His four laps of 222.165, 222.245, 222.127 and 222.111 mph were his quickest of the day and enough to bump E.J. Viso from the field and secure a spot for Sharp's No. 16 car in the Indianapolis 500 field.

The National Guard team secured a spot in the field much earlier in the day, when Wheldon qualified with a combined four-lap average of 222.777 mph, which consisted of laps of 223.253, 222.851, 222.694 and 222.311 mph.

There will be no track activity until next Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"We've got to just focus and work on our race setup now in the National Guard Panther Racing car. If you're going to win this race, you have to make sure you've got a really good balance in the racecar and we're going to work to make sure we get that. That's what this month is all about, it's very challenging and you're going to have your highs and lows, and this team is certainly good enough to figure it out. It just hasn't gone our way so far, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to go our way by any stretch."

Scott Sharp, No. 16 Tequila Patron Dallara Honda:

"I honestly never thought I'd be so happy to qualify 20th in my life. At the last bit I really thought we were done. Today we were chasing speed and we kept pulling wing out of the car but still couldn't find the time we needed. At the end of the day we laid the wing down some more and pulled up in the tech line. Then I was sitting in the tech line thinking, 'Wow -- this isn't going to happen. I've got to rent a plane, run in Utah on Friday, come back and qualify here on Saturday, back to Salt Lake to race on Sunday.' It was all going through my head then the two guys in front pulled out and it was 'let's go' and I held it down and got in the show. Once I pulled onto the track my mind was probably the clearest it's ever been. I just had to hold it down, hit my marks and see what we ended up with. I can't say enough about the Panther guys who did an amazing job in turning the car around and getting us back on track. A couple guys pulled all-nighters to make it happen on Thursday and I really can't thank them enough."
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Postby mlittle » Sat May 16, 2009 10:44 am

Indy 500: Panther Racing Friday practice report


National Guard Team Fine-Tunes Race Setup, Plans More Work Over the Weekend

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 15, 2009) -- National Guard driver Dan Wheldon spent another full day turning laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and posted the 16th quickest time amongst the thirty one drivers who turned laps on the 2.5-mile oval. Wheldon, who is qualified 18th for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, turned a total of 73 laps on the day. The 2005 winner here has been working to perfect the team's race setup before the race, which will be held a week from this Sunday.

Dan Wheldon
No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

Dan Wheldon:

"We've got to continue to work hard, and I feel like the National Guard team made some good progress today. We're not where the Penske's are right now I don't think, but by the same token we moved a little closer today and I think with some continued hard work, and a little bit more consistency I think we'll be in the race with a fighting chance. Indianapolis is very difficult, we definitely need good weather over the weekend, and as you get to this point, you've got to be realistic and you're last few runs before carburetion day you want to be in the car and have that consistency so you're in the car and have a good idea of what you've got for the race. We'll continue to work hard, the team knows what the issues are, and they're working on fixing them now."
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Postby mlittle » Mon May 18, 2009 1:18 am

Wheldon Spends Another Full Day of Running With One More Day of Indianapolis Practice

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 16, 2009) -- During the third day of qualifications for the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 the field of 33 was filled with just one final day of qualifications to be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tomorrow. Panther Racing and driver Dan Wheldon took advantage of open practice throughout the day and turned a total of 35 laps on the historic 2.5-mile oval.

Dan Wheldon
No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

Dan Wheldon: "It was another difficult day today for the National Guard Panther Racing team. We seem to be having trouble getting a balanced racecar right now. It's tough, we're going to continue to work hard but time is running out. We're struggling a bit right now I would say, but we're going to go out tomorrow and try to make it better."
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 19, 2009 9:31 am

Exciting Final Day at Indianapolis Concludes With Bumping, Final Field Set for 93rd Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 17, 2009) -- Amidst an exciting day of Bump Day qualifications at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon turned a total of 87 laps in final preparations for the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Wheldon, slated to start 18th in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, will be making his first start at Indianapolis for Panther Racing -- the team which gave him his IndyCar Series debut in 2002.

Wheldon will be joined by teammate Scott Sharp, who will start 20th driving the No. 16 Tequila Patron entry. Sharp is competing today in the ALMS race in Utah, but will return next week to make his first career start with Panther Racing, a team he has competed against throughout his IndyCar Series career.

Both Wheldon and Sharp will travel to New York City tomorrow for the IndyCar Series annual media day, before returning to Indianapolis to begin final preparations for the '500'. Panther finished runner-up in the event last season, and Wheldon captured the coveted Borg Warner trophy in 2005 while driving for Andretti Green Racing.

Panther's drivers will appear on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval again on Carb Day, next Friday.

Dan Wheldon
No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

Dan Wheldon: "It's been incredibly tough for everybody, but you've got to keep working away. We still have an imbalance with the racecar, but I think everybody out here is struggling. We know what our problem is; we've just had a tough time resolving it. I'm loose and it's happening very early on in the corner, and it's very difficult to race like that. We've got to start behind seventeen cars and you lose a lot of downforce back there, which will extenuate any problem that you do have. It's going to be very difficult if we don't sort this out, but that's what's good about this team -- they never give up. We certainly learn a lot from the troops that are in the National Guard and all the armed forces and that's their motto; they're very resilient it's that never say die attitude that keeps us going."
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Postby mlittle » Sun May 24, 2009 3:07 pm

Wheldon Finds Speed, Race Setup During Final Carb Day Practice; Sharp Finishes 17th Quick in Practice

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 22, 2009) -- The National Guard Panther Racing team and driver Dan Wheldon waited until the last possible moment to perfect the team's race setup for the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, but after an hour of Carburetion Day practice, the confidence level of the team and driver have reached a high for the month. Wheldon posted the fourth-quickest time of the day, but more importantly, the former Indianapolis 500 champion was happy with the speed and setup of his racecar.

The same can be said for Panther teammate Scott Sharp, who will start on Sunday from the 20th position after a dramatic qualification effort on the second day of qualifications. Sharp missed last week's practice days to race in Utah for Highcroft Racing, fulfilling obligations with his full-time job as an ALMS driver. Sharp did not race in the Indianapolis 500 last season, but it making a return in 2009 with his first career start in a Panther Racing car.

Wheldon posted the fourth-quickest lap time during Carb Day practice with a top lap of 222.386 mph, 40.4701 seconds.

Sharp's top lap of the day was recorded at 219.97 mph, 40.9133 seconds, which was good enough for the 17th spot on the speed chart.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"I've really got to give a lot of credit to the National Guard Panther Racing boys, because they've worked tirelessly and for the first time this month it feels like we've got a pretty good racecar. There are still some things to tidy up on the car, but we've improved a lot of the problems we've been having this month. It's been an incredibly difficult month for all of us, and there is still some work to do. It's honestly great to be able to turn left all the way through a corner since I can become used to having to turn right on entry, which is never good at Indianapolis. I'm a lot more confident now and I feel much more like myself and I feel like I'll be able to drive much more like myself. (Tony) Kanaan has been telling me how loose my racecar has been all month, and today he commented on how good the No. 4 car looked, so that was nice."
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Postby mlittle » Sun May 24, 2009 9:35 pm

SHARP AND THE TEQUILA PATRON PANTHER SQUAD READY FOR BRICKYARD BATTLE

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Friday, May 22, 2009: Scott Sharp and the Tequila Patron Panther Racing squad have completed final preparations for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 after turning 35 laps at the Speedway on Carb Day today.

Sharp recorded a fastest lap of 219.977mph around the famous 100-year-old 2.5 mile track to be 17th fastest. The one-hour session today was the team's final on-track opportunity before Sunday's 500 classic goes green at 1:00pm on Sunday.

The Connecticut-born Florida resident is the most experienced driver in the 2009 field. Sharp will make his 14th Indianapolis 500 start on Sunday. He returns to the event after missing last year's race. In the three previous races prior to that, Sharp recorded a string of top ten finishes highlighted by his best ever finish of fifth place in 2007.

Sharp will start Sunday's race in the middle of the seventh row in 20th place - two spots behind his Panther Racing team-mate, Dan Wheldon. He scored his place in the field with a dramatic final run of the afternoon on day two qualifying - his third attempt of the day.

The 2001 pole-sitter missed last weekend's second week of Indy action while on duty for his American Le Mans Series team, Patron Highcroft Racing. Sharp finished second with teammate David Brabham at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsports Park facility. Sharp and Brabham currently lead the LMP1 point championship in the ALMS by 17 points.

Sharp's final Indy appearances prior to the race will include tomorrow's driver autograph session on the Pagoda Plaza, the Public Drivers Meeting and the "500" Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis.

SCOTT SHARP

"We definitely made some gains today. About half way through the session we switched over to Dan's set-up that was a bit of an improvement.

"We're certainly moving forward and if we can make one more step for the race on Sunday, I think we will be in good shape.

"We started on full tanks and topped up during the session today. It was great to run in some traffic because it gave us a good read on the car because this has been the only race-type running we have had.

"We'll go back and run the car over the set-up pad and have a long discussion to see what changes we should make for the race.

"I'm really looking forward to Sunday. This is certainly my favorite race and my favorite track and it is brilliant to be back.

"This is one that every driver wants to win. It is a big challenge, but I wouldn't be back unless I had a huge desire to get that Tequila Patron car into victory lane at the 500."
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 26, 2009 10:29 am

Sharp battles understeer in Indy 500 finish

14th PLACE IN 14th INDY START FOR SHARP AND THE TEQUILA PATRON PANTHER SQUAD

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, Saturday, May 24, 2009: Tequila Patron's Scott Sharp scored his eighth Indianapolis 500 race finish after completing today's 93rd running of the event in 14th place.

Sharp started the Panther Racing entry on the seventh row of the grid in 20th place and despite battling understeer in traffic for the majority of the race, he managed to improve six places by the time the checkered flag dropped.

He had moved up three spots by the first pit stop on lap 23, but was forced to pit two laps early at the end of his second stint when the car became very "loose".

When a yellow fell two laps later, Sharp initially fell off the lead-lap before getting a wave-by from the pace car.

After falling to 24th, the Connecticut-born, Jupiter, FL-resident made steady progress throughout the rest of the race with the Panther Racing crew making continued adjustments to the car at every stop.

Sharp also "got lucky" just before the half-way mark when he was about to pit with a tire issue, only for the yellow flag to wave for Tony Kanaan's crash - enabling Sharp to pit with the rest of the field.

After a late-race yellow for the crash between Vitor Meira and Raphael Matos, the Tequila Patron/Muscle Milk team elected to switch into fuel conservation mode and made it to the finish without a final stop.

It was a day of thirsty work for the 14-time Indianapolis 500 starter - the car's electrically-powered drink tube failed, forcing Sharp to take a drink bottle into the car at the pit stops when he wanted to hydrate.

Today's race was won by Helio Castroneves with Panther Racing scoring the runner-up spot with Dan Wheldon - the second consecutive year that Panther has finished second in the Indianapolis 500.

SCOTT SHARP
"It was a long day at the office. We had high expectations coming into today after running a very similar set-up to Dan and it seemed like early in the race neither of our cars were great, but we were pretty similar," said Sharp.

"We had problems with understeer when I was behind people, then it would get loose off the corners.

"We never really solved the issues. We got it better at times, especially in the last run when I was basically flat our for the last 15 laps.

"The bars and weight jackers were maxed out, but I still had that understeer behind people. We really could never get the front to work well enough in traffic.

"We were able to make it to the end without doing that final stop. We had to turn the fuel down a notch and (Ryan) Briscoe couldn't get us at the finish so that was fine.

"We were unlucky with the yellow coming out just after our first pit stop, but that turned around later when we were about to pit early later in the day and the yellow came out just at the right time for Tony Kanaan's crash.

"We're obviously a little disappointed with the end result, but this is still a great race to be involved with.

"It is very easy to get yourself pumped up about this one event even though you try to remain calm. When you don't get the end result you were chasing it is a little bit depressing.

"But looking back on the day I am really grateful for the guys at Panther. Many of these guys hadn't worked together before, but we had some great stops and beat people out of the pits which was great.

"We made it to the end, but it would have been nice to be fighting around 10 spots higher up the leaderboard. It certainly makes you want to come back here even stronger.

"This race has a lot of ups and downs and you normally hope you can keep them pretty level. Unfortunately for the Tequila Patron/Muscle Milk car today, they were a little more exaggerated on the downside."
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 26, 2009 10:41 am

Panther's Pit Crew Propels Wheldon to Runner-Up Finish at Indianapolis; For Second Consecutive Year, National Guard No. 4 Car Finishes Second in Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 24, 2009) -- The National Guard Panther Racing pit crew and driver Dan Wheldon combined to make a dramatic climb from 18th on the grid up to a second place finish in the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, the second consecutive year that Panther's No. 4 car has finished runner-up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Wheldon started the race from the sixth row, the same row from where he started in 2005, the year he captured the Indianapolis 500 victory. This year, starting from 18th, his climb up the field was slow and methodical, aided by his team's pit stops. In his six pit stops during the 200-lap event, Wheldon gained positions on every trip to pit lane. Combined, Wheldon gained a total of nine positions on pit stops alone, and the Briton improved a total of 16 spots in the race. In the end, however, Wheldon didn't have the speed to overtake eventual winner Helio Castroneves.

Castroneves captured his third Indianapolis 500 win, with Wheldon -- the 2005 Indy champ -- in pursuit. Danica Patrick pressured Wheldon in the final stint of the race, but settled on third place, just ahead of fourth and fifth place finishers Townsend Bell and Will Power.

The result propels Wheldon to seventh in the IndyCar Series point standings, just 16 points behind points leader Dario Franchitti.

Wheldon's climb through the field was slow and tactful, and his second pit stop of the day, on Lap 59 helped propel him from 11th to ninth, and two stops later -- on Lap 100 -- the pit crew helped him move into sixth position. Former Panther driver Townsend Bell was able to slip past Wheldon on the track, but the Panther pit crew helped get their driver back ahead of the No. 8 car with their quick pit work, sending Wheldon out in fifth place on Lap 135 after he entered pit lane seventh.

On the team's final stop, Wheldon jumped from fourth to third and remained in that position until second-place contender Ryan Briscoe had to pit for fuel, giving Wheldon the second position. The final restart of the race on Lap 183 saw Castroneves pull out to a nearly a two second lead and Wheldon had to fight Patrick for the runner-up spot, where he would finish the race.

Panther would also like to send its regards to former driver Vitor Meira and his family, after the Brazilian was involved in a serious accident on Lap 174 in the first turn of the Speedway. Meira was transported to Methodist Hospital for further evaluation and no more details were available at the time of this release. Vitor finished second in the Indy 500 last season with Panther, and has started more races for the team than any other driver in the team's history with 48 starts. Our thoughts and prayers are with Vitor, one of the kindest and most genuine members of the IndyCar Series family.

The team will travel to the Milwaukee Mile this weekend for the ABC Supply Company AJ Foyt 225, which will be broadcast live Sunday, May 31st on ABC at 3:30 p.m. (EST), with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Sirius Channel 145.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

The National Guard Panther Racing pit crew was absolutely phenomenal today in the pits, and they certainly made my job a lot easier. They were the best crew in the field today and they should be very proud of this performance. Honestly, the execution of everything by the Panther team was spot on, and I'm not sure there is too much we could have done better. Not many times in my IndyCar career have I left the track and felt we executed everything perfectly, but today was one of those days. The pit stops were just first class, I honestly didn't have to do too much work because every time I came in they kept making me spots up. They never gave up once, and I'm proud to drive for them. I just didn't have enough for Helio, and I was also having to fight off Danica. It was just Helio's day today, he was incredibly quick. We keep running like this then things are going to go our way, and I can tell you that I'm already excited about coming to Indianapolis next year with these guys. It was a difficult month for us, but I was telling some people this morning that we learn a lot from the Soldiers in the National Guard and they never give up and they'll fight till the end, and that's what we did. Hopefully, a lot of the troops across the world were following us and were excited to see this performance. I'm very encouraged by what the Panther Racing team along with the National Guard have done. We've all worked very hard and the National Guard's 'Never Say Die' attitude really showed today. The whole team worked very hard, it was a little be frustrating at times this month, but no matter how frustrating it was, all the guys worked tremendously hard."
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Postby mlittle » Sat May 30, 2009 8:03 am

Milwaukee: Panther Racing preview


Wheldon Takes Momentum of Indianapolis Finish to Milwaukee Mile
National Guard Panther Racing Team Only 16 Points Away from Championship Lead

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 29, 2009) -- Panther Racing and driver Dan Wheldon enter this weekend's IndyCar Series event at the Milwaukee Mile riding high from another runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500, and the team hopes that momentum will carry them into the second stage of the season, which begins Sunday in the ABC Supply Company AJ Foyt 225.

The team currently ranks seventh in the IndyCar Series points standings, just 16 points away from current points leader Dario Franchitti. It is as close to the points lead as Panther has been leaving the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2002, the year of their last championship.

Four races into the season Wheldon has already captured two Top Five and three Top Ten finishes. The team's best finish this season was last weekend at Indianapolis, where Wheldon finished second -- Panther's second consecutive runner-up finish in the Indy 500. Wheldon finished in fifth place on the Streets of Long Beach earlier in the season.

The weekend will also feature a Firestone Indy Lights race on Sunday afternoon, where Panther drivers Martin Plowman and Pippa Mann will look to climb up the points standings after a frustrating day in the Freedom 100. Early in that event, Plowman spun by himself and Pippa crashed along with her teammate as she attempted to avoid the accident.

SSG Troy Kleinheinz Named Panther's "Hometown Hero" for Milwaukee Race

Middleton, Wisconsin resident, and member of the Wisconsin National Guard's 1-147th Aviation Battalion, SSG Troy Kleinheinz has been named Panther Racing's "Hometown Hero" for the Milwaukee event this weekend. SSG Kleinheinz entered his military service at the age of 25 following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Shortly after entering the aviation battalion he was called to active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Kuwait and later by a tour of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.

He was later selected for a full-time position in the training office of the 1-147th Aviation Battalion and is now responsible for managing the flight operations section and provides full-time support scheduling and tracking battalion training. Most recently, SSG Kleinheinz deployed to Egypt in 2006 in support of Operation Bright Star and is again preparing for mobilization in 2010.

SSG Kleinheinz is supported by his wife Melanie, a four-year-old son Thomas, and a two-year old daughter Samantha.

During the weekend, SSG Kleinheinz will sign a specialty-made "Hero Card" with his photo and biography during the IndyCar Series autograph session on Saturday evening. Kleinheinz will sit next to Panther driver Dan Wheldon and sign alongside the former Indianapolis 500 winner. The team will also honor his service during a ceremony in the National Guard's infield training unit on race morning.

The ABC Supply Company AJ Foyt 225 will be broadcast live Sunday, May 31st on ABC at 3:30 p.m. (EST), with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Sirius Channel 145.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"I really enjoy Milwaukee, it's a drivers' track and it's become one of my favorites in the IndyCar Series. I said early in the year that I didn't think anybody was going to run away with the championship, and right now it's very tight. The key for us is to stay consistent. I felt the National Guard Panther Racing team executed everything perfectly at Indianapolis, and I can't think of many times in my IndyCar Series career that I've left a racetrack feeling that way."

Martin Plowman, No. 15 Firestone Indy Lights

"Coming from an unfortunate crash in Indy this weekend at Milwaukee is going to be crucial for us to turn around our season and start a championship hunt. Looking back at the start of the season we were pretty strong at a lot of races but our end result wasn't good. It's very easy to look back to the 'could have been' or 'what ifs' and it's really easy to say that we should be in the Top Five because the people that we were running with when the season started are now in the Top Five in the championship. So this is the time to stop all the 'could have been' and get it right."

Pippa Mann, No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights:

"Well, obviously we are going to a completely different and completely new track again for me. We had a fantastic race car in Indy so I guess we have to try to build on that and learn the track as quick as possible to go forward and have a good race".
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Postby mlittle » Sun May 31, 2009 11:54 am

Wheldon Overcomes Missed Practice, Qualifies 14th at Milwaukee Mile; Problems with Steering Rack Forces Panther to Miss First Practice Session of the Day

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 30, 2009) -- Panther Racing and driver Dan Wheldon overcame missing the entire first practice session Saturday at the Milwaukee Mile to qualify 14th for the ABC Supply Company AJ Foyt 225. A problem with the steering in the No. 4 National Guard entry forced the team to pull the car back to the garage during the first session of the day to make substantial changes, which caused them to miss the entire first practice of the day.

With only a short 30-minute session between the morning and qualifications, the team was able to rally to put Wheldon into the field in the 15th spot with a four-lap average speed of 161.433 mph. His average consisted of laps of 159.184, 161.013, 162.897 and 162.694 mph.

Dan will be making his 100th consecutive IndyCar Series start on Sunday, putting him behind only former teammate Tony Kanaan in the that category. The race will mark his 102nd start of his IndyCar career, seven of which he will have made with Panther.

Wheldon is currently seventh in the IndyCar Series point standings, 16 points behind championship leader Dario Franchitti, who will start eighth tomorrow. He has collected three Top Five finishes at Milwaukee -- with a best result of third in 2007 -- in his five career starts on the one-mile oval. He started seventh and finished fourth here last year with Ganassi Racing.

Panther's best finish at Milwaukee was a third-place result with Tomas Scheckter in 2005. Former driver Vitor Meira collected a fifth-place finish at the Mile in 2007, and made headlines last year when he was driving the No. 4 car as it sailed through the air after Marco Andretti spun in front of him. Meira finished 22nd after the flight.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"Qualification was reasonable, probably with a little more confidence going in I would have done better, but that's one of those things. We've had a difficult weekend already, it's just difficult when you don't get a lot of running, but we've made a lot of improvements in the car since then and certainly (the qualification run) was a big improvement. We're moving in the right direction and that's very positive for tomorrow. We had an issue and missed the first session and really only had the second session to work on the National Guard Panther Racing car, and that set us back. But the guys did a great job in the pits last weekend and I'm sure they'll do the same for me here again in Milwaukee."
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Postby mlittle » Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:29 am

Panther Moves to Sixth in Points Chase with Top Ten at Milwaukee

Wheldon Captures Fourth Top Ten Finish of Season, Advances One Spot in IndyCar Series Championship

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (May 31, 2009) -- Panther Racing and driver Dan Wheldon advanced to sixth position in the IndyCar Series championship chase with a Top Ten finish Sunday at the Milwaukee Mile in the ABC Supply AJ Foyt 225. Wheldon, who started 14th, advanced to as high as seventh in the race before settling for a 10th-place result, his fourth Top Ten finish of the year in five starts. Sunday was his 100th consecutive IndyCar Series start.

Continuing on their solid performance from the Indianapolis 500, Panther's pit crew assisted Wheldon on his climb from 14th on the grid. After Wheldon advanced to 12th on the track, his crew helped move their driver up two more spots in the pits on a trip to pit lane on Lap 59. Wheldon returned to the field in 10th place, and after passing Tony Kanaan on the track for ninth, the crew helped move Wheldon up another two positions during a green flag stop for the team on Lap 125.

Wheldon surpassed Kanaan in the point standings, after the Andretti Green Racing driver appeared to have an on-board fire during the race and retired early. Dan now trails current points leader Scott Dixon by 35 points, and fifth-place Helio Castroneves by 10 points.

Dixon was the winner of the race, with Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe second and Dario Franchitti third.

In the Firestone Indy Lights race held earlier in the afternoon, Panther driver Pippa Mann captured her best career Indy Lights finish with a ninth-place result. Teammate Martin Plowman had an issue with his brakes on the first lap of the race and had to pull into pit lane to make repairs. He finished 15th.

The team will now prepare for next weekend's battle at the thrilling Texas Motor Speedway, site of five of Panther's 15 career victories. The five wins is more than any other team in the history of TMS, and now Wheldon hopes to join the likes of Scott Goodyear, Sam Hornish Jr. and Tomas Scheckter as drivers of the team's No. 4 car to have captured victory at the high-banked 1.5-mile oval.

The Bombardier Learjet 550 will be broadcast live on Versus at 9:00 p.m. (EST) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio network and Sirius/XM Channel 211.

Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

"Obviously it was a difficult weekend; when you miss the first session on a short weekend like this, it makes it very difficult. The top three cars today seemed to be in a class of their own. On a long run we were pretty good, we just didn't quite have the speed and just needed a bit more rear security so we could drive deeper into the corners. You need that to be fast around here. We're going to continue to work hard and I'm sure that the entire National Guard Panther Racing team is going to get stronger and the season goes on. We've learned some important things this weekend, and in a competitive series like this we know where we need to improve and we're heading in a good direction."

Martin Plowman, No. 15 Firestone Indy Lights

"Pretty much this was a weekend to forget. We took a direction in qualifying that didn't work for me and during the race we encountered brake problems. My race basically started with 15 laps down, so we used it as a test to improve the car looking forward to the rest of the season. After the middle of the race I was pretty happy with the balance of the car and was running the same speed as some Top Five cars. Thankfully this is a very unique place and it's not an indicator for the rest of the season."

Pippa Mann, No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights:

"Finally I got to see a checkered flag on an oval! We were running our own little race out there. After qualifying I hoped we could tag along with the leaders and run with the front pack, but on race pace I couldn't stick with the faster cars. The guys did an awesome job giving me a well balanced car, so it was a good experience for me to complete this race heading to Iowa. We had a rough start of the season but we are working hard to turn it around."
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