Panther\'s Pit Crew Propels Wheldon to Runner-Up Finish at Indianapolis
For Second Consecutive Year, National Guard No. 4 Car Finishes Second in Indy 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 24, 2009) - The National Guard Panther Racing pit crew and driver Dan Wheldon combined to make a dramatic climb from 18th on the grid up to a second place finish in the 93rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, the second consecutive year that Panther\'s No. 4 car has finished runner-up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Wheldon started the race from the sixth row, the same row from where he started in 2005, the year he captured the Indianapolis 500 victory. This year, starting from 18th, his climb up the field was slow and methodical, aided by his team\'s pit stops. In his six pit stops during the 200-lap event, Wheldon gained positions on every trip to pit lane. Combined, Wheldon gained a total of nine positions on pit stops alone, and the Briton improved a total of 16 spots in the race. In the end, however, Wheldon didn\'t have the speed to overtake eventual winner Helio Castroneves.
Castroneves captured his third Indianapolis 500 win, with Wheldon - the 2005 Indy champ - in pursuit. Danica Patrick pressured Wheldon in the final stint of the race, but settled on third place, just ahead of fourth and fifth place finishers Townsend Bell and Will Power.
The result propels Wheldon to seventh in the IndyCar Series point standings, just 16 points behind points leader Dario Franchitti.
Wheldon\'s climb through the field was slow and tactful, and his second pit stop of the day, on Lap 59 helped propel him from 11th to ninth, and two stops later - on Lap 100 - the pit crew helped him move into sixth position. Former Panther driver Townsend Bell was able to slip past Wheldon on the track, but the Panther pit crew helped get their driver back ahead of the No. 8 car with their quick pit work, sending Wheldon out in fifth place on Lap 135 after he entered pit lane seventh.
On the team\'s final stop, Wheldon jumped from fourth to third and remained in that position until second-place contender Ryan Briscoe had to pit for fuel, giving Wheldon the second position. The final restart of the race on Lap 183 saw Castroneves pull out to a nearly a two second lead and Wheldon had to fight Patrick for the runner-up spot, where he would finish the race.
Panther would also like to send its regards to former driver Vitor Meira and his family, after the Brazilian was involved in a serious accident on Lap 174 in the first turn of the Speedway. Meira was transported to Methodist Hospital for further evaluation and no more details were available at the time of this release. Vitor finished second in the Indy 500 last season with Panther, and has started more races for the team than any other driver in the team\'s history with 48 starts. Our thoughts and prayers are with Vitor, one of the kindest and most genuine members of the IndyCar Series family.
The team will travel to the Milwaukee Mile this weekend for the ABC Supply Company AJ Foyt 225, which will be broadcast live Sunday, May 31st on ABC at 3:30 p.m. (EST), with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Sirius Channel 145.
The National Guard Panther Racing pit crew was absolutely phenomenal today in the pits, and they certainly made my job a lot easier. They were the best crew in the field today and they should be very proud of this performance. Honestly, the execution of everything by the Panther team was spot on, and I\'m not sure there is too much we could have done better. Not many times in my IndyCar career have I left the track and felt we executed everything perfectly, but today was one of those days. The pit stops were just first class, I honestly didn\'t have to do too much work because every time I came in they kept making me spots up. They never gave up once, and I\'m proud to drive for them. I just didn\'t have enough for Helio, and I was also having to fight off Danica. It was just Helio\'s day today, he was incredibly quick. We keep running like this then things are going to go our way, and I can tell you that I\'m already excited about coming to Indianapolis next year with these guys. It was a difficult month for us, but I was telling some people this morning that we learn a lot from the Soldiers in the National Guard and they never give up and they\'ll fight till the end, and that\'s what we did. Hopefully, a lot of the troops across the world were following us and were excited to see this performance. I\'m very encouraged by what the Panther Racing team along with the National Guard have done. We\'ve all worked very hard and the National Guard\'s ‘Never Say Die\' attitude really showed today. The whole team worked very hard, it was a little be frustrating at times this month, but no matter how frustrating it was, all the guys worked tremendously hard.\"