Panther Prepares to Attack Infineon as IndyCar Season Nears Conclusion
Positive Test in Sonoma Last Week has Wheldon, Panther Confident Entering Race Weekend
Sonoma, Calif. - (August 21, 2009) -- A strong test session last Thursday at Infineon Raceway has infused confidence into the crewmen of Panther Racing and driver Dan Wheldon. After mid-pack results in several road and street course events in the last month, the team posted the third-quick time during Thursday's test session, and more importantly, both driver and team came away from the racetrack with a good feeling for Sunday's IndyCar Series race.
At the track on Friday, Wheldon was treated to a ride in a Black Hawk helicopter from California Adjutant General William Wade and several other members of the California National Guard. Wheldon met with roughly 50 Soldiers who attended set-up day activities and took an IndyCar Experience two-seater ride on Infineon's complex 2.303-mile circuit. Of those Soldiers, SPC Daniel Gerfen, a resident of Chico, Calif., is the Panther Racing National Guard "Hometown Hero" for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race weekend.
Gerfen, assigned to the 649th Engineer Company of the California Army National Guard, will be recognized during driver introductions on Aug. 23 and will join Wheldon at the autograph session tomorrow. Gerfen was deployed in 2007 to Camp Bucca Iraq in support Operation Iraqi Freedom VII, during which time he was charged with recovering vehicles damaged by improvised explosive devices among other duties. He works for Valley Tractor, which was supportive of his National Guard service and his mission overseas. SPC Gerfen was recently recognized by the City of Chico and Mayor Andy Holcombe for outstanding service in his community and service abroad.
This weekend will feature both Sunday's IndyCar Series event and the Firestone Indy Lights race earlier in the day on Sunday. Wheldon finished fourth here last season with Ganassi Racing and Panther driver Vitor Meira finished in seventh position.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda
"The test we had here last week went very well, and this is a track that I like a lot. I'm coming off a fourth place finish from last year. I always seem to finish well here, and as it's the last road course of the season, it's one you want to finish out strongly so the next three races we can use the momentum at the next three ovals. Obviously both myself and Panther have had a lot of wins at the final three ovals, so we want to finish out the season strongly together."
Martin Plowman, No. 15 Firestone Indy Lights
"Obviously I'm excited about going to Sonoma on the back of the good result that we had in Mid-Ohio. For sure this will be the hardest race of the year physically and mentally for all the drivers, so I hope my training pays off and we continue to show the speed we've been showing lately, but with even better results."
Pippa Mann, No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights
"Sonoma was the first track that I had contact with Firestone Indy Lights, back in 2008 when I went to California to watch the race as a Panther guest. I didn't get a chance to drive there last year, but I'm looking forward to get in the car on Saturday for practice. A friend of mine from Facebook found me a good luck dollar while he was on vacation, so I hope it helps me out this weekend."