Nashville: Panther Racing preview

Panther Drivers' Quest for Nashville Guitar Starts Friday Meira, Battistini and Sherman Look to Victory Lane at 1.33-mile Speedway INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 10, 2008) -- Panther Racing and its driver trio are hoping to acquire one of the...

Panther Drivers' Quest for Nashville Guitar Starts Friday

Meira, Battistini and Sherman Look to Victory Lane at 1.33-mile Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 10, 2008) -- Panther Racing and its driver trio are hoping to acquire one of the most unique trophies in motorsports; the electric guitar awarded to race winners at Nashville Superspeedway, site of this weekend's Indy Racing League events. Delphi National Guard driver Vitor Meira and his Firestone Indy Lights teammates Dillon Battistini and Brent Sherman will hit the difficult 1.33-mile concrete oval for tomorrow's practice sessions in preparations for both races on Saturday afternoon.

The Firestone Indy 200, which will be broadcast live on ESPN at 8 p.m. next Saturday night, with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, and XM Satellite Radio Channels 144 and 145.

Additional Notes from Panther, include:

After Watkins Crash, Guard Soldiers Show They've "Got Vitor's Back"

Panther driver Vitor Meira knows he has the sponsorship support from the U.S. Army National Guard, but he didn't realize how much the Guard soldiers "had his back" until the conclusion of the Watkins Glen race. After E.J. Viso carelessly took Meira out of the race, Panther's driver returned to his transporter to find roughly 25 National Guard soldiers waiting to give their condolences. After a brief conversation with Meira, the soldiers requested to stand outside Viso's transporter to have a word with the Venezuelan driver.

"When he messes with Vitor," one soldier observed, "he's messing with all of us. I'm sure when (Viso) sees all of us out here, he'll know he messed with the wrong driver."

While most of their actions were in jest, the soldiers were advised to keep the peace, something they do quite well.

Panther Drivers Remain In Camo Uniforms for Nashville Race

Panther drivers celebrated the Fourth of July weekend at Watkins Glen by donning camouflage uniforms, made from ACU nomex fabric supplied by the National Guard, which put the team's drivers in the exact same material worn by the soldiers. Due to the popular response to the uniforms last weekend, the team has elected to keep their driver lineup in the suits again this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway. Likewise, Indy Lights driver Dillon Battistini's No. 15 car will remain in National Guard Delphi livery.

Local Guardsmen SSG Bonnett Puts Real "Hero" in Hero Card

At every race this season, Panther Racing is putting a real "hero" on their Hero Cards (driver autograph cards) in an effort to honor a local member of the Army National Guard. In each race market, the local division of the National Guard selects a "hero" to represent the National Guard in each state. The hero has his photo and biography printed on the back of each driver autograph card and sits next to Meira at the driver autograph sessions, signing his side of the card along with Panther's veteran driver.

SSG Robert E. Bonnett has served 14 years and is currently assigned to the 252 MP Company, based in Cleveland, TN. During his services, SSG Bonnett has received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Iraqi Campaign Medal and several others. He has an associates degree in Criminal Justice.

Panther Wants to Add Another Guitar to its Trophy Case

Panther Racing collected a guitar from Nashville during its Indy Lights Championship run in 2003 with Mark Taylor, and now the team hopes it can add another two Gibson electric guitars after this weekend. Panther has been close before, finishing third here on two occasions -- once with Sam Hornish Jr. in 2002 and again with Vitor Meira in 2006. The team also captured its last pole position at Nashville, in 2005 with Tomas Scheckter, who was engineered by current Panther Race Engineer David Cripps at the time.

Vitor Meira, No. 4 Delphi National Guard:

"I like Nashville because it's a unique in the championship since it's the only track on concrete, which makes it make the variety of our championship more complete. We've run well here in the past, I know last year we were 10th but the year before we finished third and were fighting for the victory with both the Ganassi guys. We've had a tough couple races with guys taking us out, but that's a part of racing and it's something that we're ready to overcome. There are still a lot of races on this schedule and we're going to turn this around."

Dillon Battistini, No. 15 AlexP Indy Lights:

"We have been really strong on the ovals all year long, so it seems like a perfect opportunity to bounce back from our disappointing weekend at Watkins Glen. Panther has won at Nashville before, and Hideki (Mutoh) ran well there for them last year. We're confident. I'm looking forward to getting some points back and focusing on our goal of winning a championship."

Brent Sherman, No. 16 National Guard Delphi Indy Lights:

"I want to win the guitar. I have been to Nashville many times in the ARCA series and the Busch Series. I have finished second several times and third too. I have run a lot of laps there, and I can smell the victory. I know that the Indy Lights car is a lot different than the stock cars, but having success at the track in the other series should have some benefit now. After running the way we ran last weekend and the success that I have had in Nashville in the past, I am looking forward to this weekend for sure."

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Brent Sherman , Dillon Battistini , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing