Wheldon Looks To Add Another Victory to Panther's Texas Win Total National Guard Panther Racing Team Hopes First 2009 Win Comes on Thrilling 1.5-mile Oval INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 3, 2009) -- National Guard driver Dan Wheldon will look to...
Wheldon Looks To Add Another Victory to Panther's Texas Win Total
National Guard Panther Racing Team Hopes First 2009 Win Comes on Thrilling 1.5-mile Oval
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 3, 2009) -- National Guard driver Dan Wheldon will look to become the fourth Panther Racing pilot to win a race at Texas Motor Speedway's breathtaking 1.5-mile oval in this weekend's Bombardier Learjet 550k. Panther has captured five of the team's 15 career IndyCar Series victories on the Texas high-banks, with former drivers Scott Goodyear and Sam Hornish Jr. winning two races apiece and Tomas Scheckter collecting the team's most recent victory there in June of 2005.
Wheldon, like Panther, has a total of 15 career wins but unlike his new team, none of which have come in Forth Worth, site of one of IndyCar's most exciting venues. He hopes to change that during Saturday night's race until the lights of Texas.
Goodyear captured his second victory with Panther at Texas in the summer of 1999, and then won what would be his final start with the team in the last race of the year in 2000. Hornish followed tradition the next year, winning the season finale there in 2001, and then followed up the next season by defeating Helio Castroneves for the 2002 Texas Motor Speedway victory, and the IndyCar Series championship. Many observers have labeled the Hornish-Castroneves Texas duel as the greatest race in the short history of the IndyCar Series.
In Wheldon's nine career starts there, he has collected four Top Five and three top-three finishes. In 2006, he started on the front row and had a commanding lead until a problem on his final pit stop forced the Ganassi Racing driver to settle on a third-place result. Last season, despite a suspension failure that caused Wheldon's No. 10 car to crash and flip upside down on the infield grass, he rebounded to finish fourth in the race.
This is the first race of the season where Wheldon will be returning to a track where he started with Panther during his first stint with the team in 2002. That season, Dan made his second career IndyCar Series start, and finished 15th at Texas despite not even making a qualification attempt (he started 28th).
Specialist Bernard Hanus Named Panther's "Hometown Hero" for Texas Race
Houston native and Texas National Guard Specialist Bernard Hanus has been named Panther's "Hometown Hero" for the race at Texas Motor Speedway. Specialist Hanus, 37, is currently an Infantryman assigned to HHC, 72nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion in Huntsville, Texas.
After originally entering the U.S. Army in August of 1989, Hanus was deployed to Panama where he received the Army Achievement Medal for his involvement in a successful search, rescue and medical evacuation of a Soldier who was lost in the Panamanian jungle. He completed active duty in August of 1992, but elected to enlist in the Texas National Guard in 1996, during which time he traveled to the Czech Republic as a member of a squad that represented the United States Army in a exhibition of military task skills. His tour of service with the Texas National Guard concluded in January of 1996, but Specialist Hanus reenlisted in the Texas Guard in 2007, and has since participated in emergency activations for hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike, as well as tropical storm Edouard in 2008.
He is currently employed by the University of Texas at the Health and Science Center in Houston as a Senior Digital Controls Technician. For his service, he has been awarded the Army Superior Unit Award, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Adjutant General's Individual Award.
Specialist Hanus will be honored by National Guard officials, Panther team owner John Barnes and Wheldon prior to Saturday night's race in the team's infield training unit. He will also sit and sign autographs alongside Wheldon during Friday's IndyCar Series autograph session, where he will sign a "Hero Card" made with his picture and biographical information. A copy of the Hero Card is framed and placed inside the team's hospitality area for the rest of the year.
His wife Brandy is currently enrolled in the University of Texas School of Nursing and the couple has three children -- Megan, Michael and James.
The Bombardier Learjet 550 will be broadcast live on Versus at 9:00 p.m. (EST) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio network and Sirius/XM Channel 211.
Dan Wheldon, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda
"Texas is a great track, and we are excited to work on our 1.5-mile oval program there. Panther has won a lot of races at the track and hopefully we'll roll off the truck this week very strong. Texas is one of those places where I've not been fortunate enough to win, so hopefully we'll make that right this weekend. I was leading there by several seconds in 2006, but we had a little problem on our last green flag pit stop and I believe we finished third. We all feel like this is a place where we could have a really good weekend."