Homestead: Panther Racing preview

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,...

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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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Brent Sherman , Ryan Briscoe , Pippa Mann , Martin Plowman , Dillon Battistini , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing