Panther Racing pre-season news 2008-02-27

National Guard Joins Panther Racing, Delphi as Co-Primary Sponsor Veteran Vitor Meira Returns to Pilot No. 4 Delphi National Guard Honda in 2008 HOMESTEAD, Fla. (February 27, 2008) -- Two time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing...

National Guard Joins Panther Racing, Delphi as Co-Primary Sponsor

Veteran Vitor Meira Returns to Pilot No. 4 Delphi National Guard Honda in 2008

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (February 27, 2008) -- Two time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced today that it has signed an agreement with the Army National Guard to become co-primary sponsor of the team's No. 4 car during the 2008 IndyCar Series season. The National Guard will team with Delphi as co-primary sponsors of Panther's entry, set to be driven by Vitor Meira, who is entering his third season with the team.

"In all my years of racing I have never been so proud to see a sponsor's logo on the side of my racecar," Panther CEO and founding partner John Barnes said. "Panther is honored to represent the Army National Guard and the hundreds of thousands of citizen soldiers protecting this country across the nation and the world. We believe with the support of the National Guard, Delphi and having a driver of Vitor Meira's ability returning to the team, that Panther has the components to make a run at the 2008 championship."

The co-primary sponsorship agreement will showcase two different car liveries this season for Panther's No. 4 car. While the overall red, white and blue paint scheme of the car will remain the same, the National Guard and Delphi logos will rotate between sidepod and engine cover of the team's Dallara throughout the season.

"The leadership of the Army National Guard, along with its force of over 350,000 men and women, are incredibly proud to be teaming up with Panther Racing, Vitor Meira and the No. 4 Delphi National Guard car," Colonel Mike Jones, Recruitment and Retention, National Guard bureau, said. "IndyCar Series racing offers an exciting opportunity for the Army National Guard to not only expand its award winning racing program, but also to display our image and traditions with a new audience of racing fans."

The National Guard's activation plan to recruit, enlist and retain soldiers will be run jointly with both its NASCAR and IndyCar Series programs.

"The National Guard has protected me every minute I've been in the United States and now I'm honored to carry their colors on my racecar," Meira said. "The National Guard is a family much like Panther Racing is a family and I'm proud that we can represent them during this season. I'm excited to do whatever I can to help their recruitment and retention efforts. All of the Guard's citizen soldiers are heroes of mine and I hope I can make them proud this season."

Today's announcement also solidifies Panther's ongoing relationship with Delphi Corp., which joined the team as a primary sponsor prior to the 2007 season. Both Panther and Delphi -- one of the longest standing team and league sponsors -- entered the IndyCar Series in 1998, and the two have won 23 IndyCar Series races combined.

"Delphi believes that teaming up with Panther Racing, the National Guard and Vitor Meira will find us visiting Victory Lane and contending for the 2008 championship," said Bill Lafontaine, Delphi Corporate Director, Integrated Marketing Services. "Delphi has been associated with many great partners thorough our global motorsports programs and we look forward to a successful association with the National Guard."

In six seasons of IndyCar Series competition, Meira has established himself as one of the most successful and consistent drivers in the league. In 76 career starts, Vitor has finished inside the Top Five 33 percent of the time. In his first season with Panther in 2006, Meira finished fifth in the IndyCar Series championship, a career best, and finished second at the Indianapolis 500 a year earlier.

"As a team, Panther has done everything we can this off-season to contend for our third championship," Barnes explained. "We've spent multiple working on our research and development initiatives, and our new Technical Director (Henri Durand) has overhauled our entire technical operation and made some major improvements. He's quickly proven himself as a key addition to our team. We feel like this is going to be a special year for our team, sponsors and fans."

Durand is entering his first year with Panther after spending 20 years in Formula One, including 11 years at McLaren F-1, where he was Chief Engineer of Aerodynamics. During his tenure there, McLaren won four F-1 World Championships with driver Ayrton Senna (1990-91) and Mika Hakkinen (1998-99). Durand was Technical Director of Mecachrome USA prior to joining Panther.

Panther Racing is entering its eleventh season of IndyCar Series competition, in which is has collected two series titles (2001 and 2002) with Sam Hornish Jr. and a total of 15 victories. In addition, the team has amassed nine wins and the 2003 championship in only two seasons in the developmental Indy Pro Series.

The IndyCar Series season opens Saturday, March 29th at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a race Panther has won on two occasions.

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mika Hakkinen , Ayrton Senna , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing