NA-F2000: IRL: Dan Wheldon signs with IRL's Panther Racing

Former U.S. F2000 champion Wheldon to team up with Hornish. FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, June 7, 2002 -- Former U.S. F2000 champion Dan Wheldon will team up with reigning Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. to drive a second Pennzoil...

Former U.S. F2000 champion Wheldon to team up with Hornish.

FORT WORTH, Texas, Friday, June 7, 2002 -- Former U.S. F2000 champion Dan Wheldon will team up with reigning Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. to drive a second Pennzoil Panther Racing entry at the last two IRL events of this season, team officials announced June 7.

Wheldon, 23, from Oxford, England, will compete in the Delphi Indy 300 on Sept. 8 at Chicagoland Speedway and the season-ending Chevy 500 on Sept. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity to be associated with the defending IRL champions and working with the team," Wheldon said. "I had an opportunity to test an IRL car for Team Cheever last winter, and I really believe that my driving style suits that type of racing very well. And learning from strong team guys like (engineer) Andy Brown, (team manager) Kevin Blanch and a great driver like Sam Hornish is certainly a great opportunity."

Wheldon won seven races in British Formula Ford before moving to U.S. F2000 and winning the championship in 1999. He earned six victories and was named Rookie of the Year. In 2000, he moved to Toyota Atlantic and won two events, including his debut race in the series, and was named Rookie of the Year. In 2001, he climbed to Indy Lights, where he again won two races and Rookie of the Year honors.

"Panther Racing has always desired to become a two-car operation, but we have made the commitment that it would not be done in a manner that detracted from our Pennzoil effort or in a manner that didn't allow an equal opportunity for the second car to win races," said John Barnes, co-owner of Pennzoil Panther Racing. "We have kept an eye on Dan since he started racing in the United States in 1999, and we believe we have an opportunity to put together a financially and technically competitive program with Dan behind the wheel.

"Going all the way back to his beginning days, Dan has proven he can win races and contend for championships. What has impressed us the most is his knack for running up front on ovals and in high-speed draft situations, like he will face in the IRL."

A sponsor for the car will be named at a later date. If appropriate funding can be found, Panther Racing and Wheldon may compete in more events in 2002.

Wheldon's official duties with the team start this weekend at the Boomtown 500 at Texas Motor Speedway where he begins working with team members, engineers and spotter/driver development coach Pancho Carter.

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About this article
Series Atlantic , IndyCar , Indy Lights , Other open wheel
Drivers Dan Wheldon , Pancho Carter , John Barnes , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing