Panther Looks to Lead Wheldon to Repeat Victory at Iowa Speedway; Wheldon is Defending Iowa Race Winner, Panther's Indy Lights Program Captured 2008 Win Too INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 16, 2009) -- Panther Racing enters this weekend at Iowa...
Panther Looks to Lead Wheldon to Repeat Victory at Iowa Speedway; Wheldon is Defending Iowa Race Winner, Panther's Indy Lights Program Captured 2008 Win Too
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 16, 2009) -- Panther Racing enters this weekend at Iowa Speedway with the defending winner of the IndyCar Series event, and as the defending race-winning team of the Firestone Indy Lights race. Dan Wheldon, who won at the bullring a year ago, will pilot the team's No. 4 National Guard entry, and with Firestone Indy Lights drivers Martin Plowman and Pippa Mann looking to repeat the team's victory at the 7/8-mile track in 2008.
Wheldon, whose last victory with Ganassi Racing came last year at Iowa, enters this weekend in sixth position in the IndyCar Series championship standings. Last season was a rebound victory for the Brit, who had crashed on the first lap of the inaugural Iowa Speedway event in 2007. Wheldon's team made repairs to his car following that crash two years ago, and he rebounded to finish 11th in the race.
After the win last season, Wheldon and then-teammate Scott Dixon donated all of their winnings to recovery efforts for a flood that devastated the area just days prior to the IndyCar Series race.
Panther and former driver Vitor Meira had a strong showing at the first IndyCar race held in Iowa. Meira was dominant during the race, and led a race-high 71 laps before a suspension failure with just 34 laps remaining, which ended what appeared to be a strong shot at victory for the No. 4 team. Last year, a pair of pit-lane incidents relegated the team to a 15th-place finishing position.
The National Guard team is currently riding a streak of five consecutive Top Ten finishes, including a runner-up finish in the 93rd Indianapolis 500. In the two races since the '500', Panther finished 10th at Milwaukee and seventh a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway. The only race this season the team has finished outside the Top Ten was the season opening event in St. Petersburg.
In Indy Lights, Panther has made three starts at Iowa with all resulting in Top Five finishes. Last season, Dillon Battistini won the race with a late-race pass of Arie Luyendyk Jr. as teammate Brent Sherman finished in fourth position. In 2007, team rookie Hideki Mutoh finished on the podium with a third-place result. The team's current driver duo hopes to have similar success this weekend; Pippa is coming off her best career finish (ninth at Milwaukee) and Plowman is looking to duplicate his Top Five performance at Kansas Speedway earlier in the season.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda
"It's always a nice feeling going back to a track were you've won, and Iowa is going to be a very competitive race. They key here is having a car that works well through turns one and two, and if you're good through there then Iowa is a fun place to race. I figured I had to win the race last year after crashing on the first lap two years ago. Last year I was actually quicker with old tires if that makes sense. I was a lot slower after our pit stops so we decided to not stop late in the race and leave the old tires on. The Panther Racing guys have been working very hard on the National Guard car and we're continuing to get better. The key for us is if we've got a chance to win a race, we have to take advantage."
Martin Plowman, No. 15 Firestone Indy Lights
"I'm looking forward for the race in Iowa. Looking at last year's results I know Panther has a good setup there and this gives me the confidence I need going into a track that is new for me. It's another short oval but not like Milwaukee, this one is similar to the speedways that I'm more used to. I really want to use this race as a spring board to get back in the championship fight. So far we had a bit of bad luck but I know that Panther Racing is a good team and that we have speed and what it takes to get a big result."
Pippa Mann, No. 16 Firestone Indy Lights
"Milwaukee was my first short track experience and that turned out pretty well with a Top Ten finish, so I'm confident going into Iowa that we will have a good weekend. Panther raced exceptionally well there winning the race last season with one car and finishing in fourth position with the other. Having a good base setup helps a lot when you go to a track that you never raced before, so I'm looking forward into this race to bring the car home with a good result and help us build our points in the championship."