Pit Lane Incident with Danica Patrick Ends Panther's Day in 21st place
Wheldon Storms from 14th into the Top Five But Concludes Season on the Sideline
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - (October 10, 2009) -- A pit lane incident with Danica Patrick concluded what was an otherwise impressive run for National Guard Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon in the Firestone Indy 300, the final IndyCar Series race of the season which was held at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wheldon had charged from a 14th-place starting position and into the Top Five of the race in just nine laps on Saturday afternoon, but the race would conclude 50 laps from the finish for Panther's driver.
Wheldon had been battling with another Andretti Green Racing driver, Hideki Mutoh, for seventh position when he pitted on Lap 149 for what would have been his final stop of the day. As he exited the National Guard pit box, he made contact with Danica's No. 7 car -- which was entering its box a few stalls ahead. The Panther crew made repairs to the No. 4 car and sent Wheldon out for one more lap, but the damage was too significant to safely continue in the race.
The finish drops Wheldon to tenth in the final championship standings, after a thrilling race concluded with Dario Franchitti as the 2009 IndyCar Champion. The race looked to be a victory for either Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe or Ganassi Racing pilot Scott Dixon, but both competitors had to make an additional pit stop for fuel, which gave the race victory to Franchitti -- who had run in third place for most of the event.
Wheldon concluded the season with a total of three Top Five and nine Top Ten finishes, with a best finish of second place in the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
"The National Guard car was very well balanced at the start and we moved to the front very quickly. We were being pretty aggressive in terms of trying to get to the front as quick as possible. Once it settled down I got into fifth and I had just a little bit too much understeer to stay there and dropped back a little bit and was fighting with Hideki Mutoh for seventh.
(On the pit incident with Danica) It was one of those things, and unfortunate for everybody on the National Guard Panther Racing team, but in a lot of ways it sums up the luck we've had this season."