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."