Caution Flag Ruins Podium Finish for Panther; Wheldon 8th in Motegi Wheldon Runs Top Three All Day, Gets Caught Out During Hunter-Reay Crash MOTEGI, Japan - (September 19, 2009) -- An untimely caution flag Saturday during the Indy Japan 300...
Caution Flag Ruins Podium Finish for Panther; Wheldon 8th in Motegi
Wheldon Runs Top Three All Day, Gets Caught Out During Hunter-Reay Crash
MOTEGI, Japan - (September 19, 2009) -- An untimely caution flag Saturday during the Indy Japan 300 ripped a podium finish away from National Guard Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon, who finished eighth in the 200-lap event. Wheldon, the only driver running with the Ganassi duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, got caught out after he pitted for the final time immediately prior to a crash involving Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The result was Wheldon's ninth Top Ten finish of the season, and he remains ninth in the IndyCar Series point standings -- 12 points behind Tony Kanaan.
After qualifying eighth for today's event, Wheldon moved up quickly in his No. 4 National Guard Honda. He passed Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti and Tomas Scheckter to move into sixth position before the tenth lap of the race and then passed Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick on Lap 21 to move into the Top Five. After chasing Team Penske driver -- and championship points leader -- Ryan Briscoe for more than 20 laps, he moved passed the No. 6 car and KV Racing's Mario Moraes to claim the third position before the team's first pit stop on Lap 49.
Quick pit work by the Panther pit crew on the next three pit stops -- on Laps 49, 100 and 157, respectively -- kept Wheldon in the hunt with Dixon and Franchitti inside the Top Three. But it was following the team's last stop that Hunter-Reay crashed hard into Motegi's fourth-turn wall, bringing out a caution flag. Having just pitted, the untimely caution caught Wheldon out and he was forced to take the final restart in eighth position behind several lapped cars.
The IndyCar Series season will conclude in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a track where Panther and Wheldon -- respectively -- have captured victories in five of the eight IndyCar Series races held at the track. The Firestone Indy 300 will be held Saturday, October 10th with live coverage provided by VERSUS, the IMS Radio Network and XM Sirius Channel 211.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda
"It was really good to be back and running up front again, and obviously from the entire Panther Racing team standpoint I feel everybody did an excellent job. The engineering staff made a big change last night for the race and it was very positive and I could see that it made the car very nice to drive today and certainly when catching lapped traffic I was able to make a lot of time up. Unfortunately it was one of those things for us today; we got caught on the yellow flag. But like I said everybody here has put a lot of effort into this weekend and unfortunately they weren't rewarded. We again showed that we can run with the best."