Andretti joins Panther Racing, Camping World for Indy
Two-time IndyCar Series Champion Panther Racing announced today it will enter a car in the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500 for John Andretti, who will be making his return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after 12-year hiatus from IndyCar racing.
Andretti, who last competed in the ‘500’ in 1994, will have his No. 33 entry sponsored by Camping World and RVs.com. He will join new teammates Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura on the historic 2.5-mile oval for practice Wednesday. Andretti’s yellow Camping World Panther Dallara Honda will attempt to qualify for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this coming Saturday, when spots 22-33 are available.
“We’re happy to have the opportunity to bring John Andretti back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500,” Panther co-owner John Barnes said. “We feel like this third car makes our entire effort this month that much stronger. It’s great that Camping World and RVs.com have continued to diversify their involvement in motorsports and helped make this partnership possible. Panther is thrilled to help put John back in an Indy-car.”
For Barnes, the signing of Andretti will mark the fourth member of the historic family he has worked with at Indianapolis. He was a mechanic for Mario in 1973 with Vels Parnelli Jones Racing, a team manager for Jeff in 1993 with Pagan Racing and a team owner in 2001 when Panther prepared the car that Michael ran at Indianapolis.
“I couldn’t think of a better time and a better way to return to the Indianapolis 500,” Andretti said. “For me, obviously, growing up in Indiana and with the history of our family at Indianapolis, being able to compete in the Indianapolis 500 again with a championship caliber team like Panther Racing is great. We’re coming out in a bright yellow car; I’ve had success in yellow and Panther has had a tremendous amount of success in yellow racecars. Now it’s time for us to do something great together.”
Andretti is looking to make his eighth career start in the Indianapolis 500, a track where he finished fifth in 1991 – his best career effort at the Speedway. Since he left Indy-car racing in 1994, John has made 10 starts in the Brickyard 400, with a best result of seventh in 1998. His addition to the field will make three entrants from the Andretti family, joining series-regular Marco Andretti and John’s cousin Michael Andretti, who has returned for another run at the ‘500’ after finishing third last season.
In 1994, John Andretti was the first driver to attempt and complete the “double”, competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in the same day. When he qualifies this weekend, it will tie Roberto Moreno for third-longest hiatus between Indianapolis 500 starts. Only Roland Free and Cy Marshall (both 17 years between starts) have experienced longer layoffs between Indy 500 starts.
“It’s great to continue my association with Camping World and drive for them in the Indianapolis 500 – they’ve been a great supporter of mine,” Andretti said. “We’ve been lots of places together, but I look forward to bringing them to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Panther’s No. 33 entry will feature the color scheme of Camping World, which is a familiar site on the NASCAR circuit, where the company – and associate partner RVs.com - will sponsor over 60 events in 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series, with drivers like Andretti, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Cale Gale, Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday. Camping World is also a sponsor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“This sponsorship of Panther Racing and John Andretti for the 91st Indy 500 is a compliment to our official sponsorship program with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Marcus Lemonis, President and CEO of Camping World LLC, said. “John has represented us well in the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series with Camping World sponsorship and we are very pleased he will be representing us with Panther Racing at Indianapolis this May.”
The team will compete in the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27th, a race that will be broadcast live in HD on ABC, starting at noon (EST). Additional coverage will be provided by the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio channels 144 and 145.