Wheldon Set for 100th Career IndyCar Series Start in Kansas; Two-Time Defending Kansas Speedway Winner Looks to Score National Guard its First IndyCar Win
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 22, 2009) -- Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon is preparing for his 100th career IndyCar Series start this weekend at Kansas Speedway, where the National Guard driver is the two-time defending race winner. The former league and Indy 500 champion will attempt to duplicate the IndyCar record shared by himself (Homestead-Miami Speedway) and former teammate Scott Dixon (Watkins Glen International Raceway) by winning three consecutive races at the same track.
Preparations for the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 begin with practice and qualifications prior to the race on Sunday. Wheldon is flying to Kansas City a day early to visit the National Guard's Kansas headquarters in Topeka, and also to make an appearance Friday night at the MLS Kansas City Wizards match against the New York Red Bulls.
Dating back to 2005, Wheldon has never finished outside the top two positions at Kansas. The track suits his style of driving well, and in addition to victories there in 2007 and 2008, Wheldon finished runner-up in 2005 and 2006. He enters the weekend in seventh in the IndyCar Series point standings and coming off a Top Five finish on the Streets of Long Beach. His result at Long Beach was his best finish on a street course since a podium result at Belle Isle in 2007.
Wheldon has led over half (216 of 400) of the laps run at Kansas in the past two seasons.
In 99 career IndyCar Series starts, Wheldon has collected 15 victories -- third in series history -- and has finished in the Top Five in over half (55) of his starts. He has led 2,748 laps since making his first career start in 2002, with Panther at Chicagoland Speedway.
Panther has had similar success at the 1.5-mile oval, although a trip to victory lane has been elusive. Most recently, the team scored a podium finish there in 2006, and twice finished runner-up with former driver Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001-02. The team also led 63 laps at Kansas in 2005 with former driver Tomas Scheckter, who finished in fifth place that year.
The Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 will be held on Sunday, April 26th and broadcast live on Versus, the IMS Radio Network, www.indycar.com, and XM Sirius Channel 211.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda
"The Kansas race is one that I'm very confident about, and if you look back at Panther's results on the 1.5-mile ovals they're very, very strong. It's going to be a very intense race. Each year the track tends to lose a little bit of grip, so you're going to have to work hard on having a good handling race car across the seams that the track has. I like to run the car a little more on edge than what Panther is accustomed to, so we're working to find that balance where we are still fast, but the car is strong throughout the race. At Kansas, you want to have a car that is quick out front, and I felt we had that in the test there recently. Certainly with the development that we have in mind and even the experience that we have at Kansas and the experience we'll take out of Kansas, I think we'll certainly have one eye on Indianapolis as well."
(On his 100th start) "I've very much enjoyed the IndyCar Series. I think it's certainly evolved since I first raced here in 2002 with Panther. The competition level now is very, very intense. I think even with the tough economic times that we have ahead of us, the series continues to thrive, and with partners like the National Guard being involved with Panther Racing, with Honda and Firestone and Dallara, I expect it to get stronger and stronger. I hope that I can do many more races, but I think the one thing that I've learned in those 100 races is how good that milk tastes at Indy, and I'd definitely like to taste it again."