Dan Wheldon and his refurbished 'pearly whites' signs on with Panther Racing
Six years after Dan Wheldon made his IndyCar Series debut at Chicagoland Speedway for Panther Racing, the team announced today it has reached a multi-year agreement to bring the former Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion back home to the two-time league champions.
“It’s hard to describe the level of excitement and emotions all of us at Panther have knowing that Dan has come back to drive for us,” team Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. “I remember watching him drive for the first time in the Indy Lights series years ago, and I knew he was going to be a special talent. Since then he’s become one of the best open-wheel drivers in the world, and for him to make his return to our team at the height of his racing career is a tremendous compliment to our team. I know he’s excited about getting into the No. 4 car for the first time and we’ve got a tremendous future ahead of us.”
Wheldon signed with the team originally in June of 2002 under a testing agreement. It was later the same year, at Chicagoland, that Wheldon made his debut for Panther driving the No. 15 Pennzoil sponsored entry and finished 10th. He also started at Texas Motor Speedway for the team and finished 15th despite not even making a qualification attempt.
“I’m very excited to be joining the entire Panther Racing crew,” Wheldon said. “This is the place where I started my career in 2002 and with the personnel and leadership that John Barnes has put together, I know that we’ll be fighting for outright victories, the Indianapolis 500 title and the league championship. I’m looking forward to when my obligations with my current team have been honored, so I can get with the entire Panther family and start moving towards all of our goals of winning races and championships together. It’s great to be back.”
Wheldon became one of the winningest and most consistent drivers in open-wheel racing during stints with Andretti Green Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. In 2005, he won both the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series championship during a season in which he won a league-record six races. The following season he won two more races and tied former teammate Hornish for the overall points lead at the end of the year but the title went to Hornish because he had more victories.
He currently ranks fourth in the IndyCar Series points standings and has two victories this year – at Kansas Speedway and Iowa Speedway.
For his career, Wheldon has amassed 15 IndyCar Series victories; five Poles, 54 Top Five and 72 Top Ten finishes in his 96 starts in the league. His 15 wins rank him third all-time in IndyCar Series history, and his 2,735 laps led are the third most in the history of the series.
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