Panther Racing future unclear, Scheckter to Vision

UPDATE #12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Our inside sources at 16th and Georgetown tell us that Vision Racing has officially signed Tomas Scheckter. He will partner with team owner Tony George's stepson, Ed Carpenter. This would also seem to indicate that Panther Racing is indeed done. We await the formal announcement.

01/25/06 Tomas Scheckter hasn't signed a contract with Vision Racing, but he will be in the team's Indy car today during testing at Phoenix International Raceway, team president Tony George said Tuesday.

The South African driver who has a pair of victories in his Indy Racing League career will team with George's stepson, Ed Carpenter, in the two-car entry. "We think he can take our team to the next level," George said of Scheckter, who drove for Panther Racing the past two years. Scheckter will give the IRL 16 confirmed combinations for the season. Paul Dana (Rahal Letterman Racing) and Kosuke Matsuura (Super Aguri Fernandez) were confirmed earlier this week. Indy Star

01/07/06 In another clear sign Panther Racing may not answer the bell in 2006, Veteran engineer Andy Brown, who helped Sam Hornish Jr. win two consecutive IRL titles, joined Ganassi Racing to work with defending league champion Dan Wheldon. Indy Star And…….The entire Panther operation is set for ABSOLUTE AUCTION by the company that we provided a link to below. The web site auction info lists in detail every piece of their equipment from trucks to car stands. Stick a fork in Panther Racing, they're done.

12/18/05 SPEED News Sunday reports that Pat Patrick will not be buying Panther Racing. Where that leaves the team is anyone’s guess, but like Cheever Racing and many others folding, it's the direct result of the ongoing war in open wheel racing.

12/16/05 Team co-owner and general manager John Barnes is scheduled to meet with potential buyer Pat Patrick this morning in Phoenix in what figures to be a take it-or-leave it proposition. If Patrick doesn't want the bulk of the Indy Racing League team's assets, Barnes will move on.

"I don't care either way," Barnes said before leaving Indianapolis. "If he wants to buy it and pay what I want, fine. If not, I'll get it sold some other way." Panther has scheduled an auction for late January to sell its extra equipment. The team still hopes to field one car in 2006, if sponsorship can be secured. Patrick, a co-founder of CART in 1978, said he is eager to return to Indy-car racing. He last competed in 2004 with a small IRL team.
"It left a void," he said. "I think I've gone through remission."

Barnes and fellow co-owner Doug Boles met with a potential sponsor Wednesday in Indianapolis. Possible deals once considered dead are back in the mix, Boles said. "A lot's changed in the past 72 hours," Boles said prior to the Wednesday presentation. "We're doing everything we can. Hopefully, we can make this work." Indy Star

12/02/05 Longtime Indy-car owner Pat Patrick says he's trying to buy Panther Racing and keep it a two-car team for 2006. "It could happen, it's probably 50/50," said Patrick, who began fielding Indy cars in 1969 and won the Indianapolis 500 three times with Gordon Johncock (twice) and Emerson Fittipaldi. "There are a lot of variables but I'm trying to buy that team (Panther Racing) and I'd like to run Tomas Enge and Vitor Meira."

The wildest rumor has Tomas Scheckter joining Vision Racing as a teammate to Tony George's step-son, Ed Carpenter. George can count and knows he needs to run at least two cars in '06 for his depleted series. More at

11/26/05 AutoRacing1,com is getting word from some Champ Car team insiders that there now only remains a core group of about 10 people at Panther Racing and although they have been told that there is a plan, panic is beginning to set in. And we continue to hear there is keen interest from Tomas Scheckter and his manager, his brother Toby (right), who are regular callers too. 11/23/05 According to this article, "We're looking at several options," said Griffin, whose group is thought to be talking with Pat Patrick and the sons of Jonathan Byrd about keeping Panther alive. "We've got five sponsorship deals in the hopper and several people have inquired about buying the place. The people we're talking to want us to stay in the IRL and, obviously, our druthers would be to keep going in the series we love.

"This has always been a family deal and we want to keep it going. But you can't do anything without money.

"We told Tomas if he finds something to go for it because we don't know what's going to happen," said Griffin. "We just need one of these sponsor deals to come through and we could have a positive answer for everybody by December 5."

09/25/05 Panther Racing, which does not have a sponsor for the 2006 season, has been the subject of speculation that it will switch to the Champ Car series. Not according to team co-owner Gary Pedigo, an Indianapolis auto dealer. "We're not," he said. "And if we are, I'm not personally interested in that. I won't be involved with that." Indy Star

07/31/05 Although we had downgraded this rumor to 'false' based on statements made by John Barnes on SPEED News Saturday evening, we are changing it back to 'speculation.' When he was asked at Michigan whether he would reject an offer by Champ Car to move to their series, Barnes refused to deny it. His comment was quite interesting – he first rattled off a number of good teams in the IRL and then said, "sometimes the only thing that matters is change." We are told by Champ Car that there was never an offer made to Barnes. So what is the real story? Hmm…….

07/25/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today as we expected it would be. Panther Racing has declined an offer to join the Champ Car World Series in 2006, opting to remain in the IRL for what will be a ninth season. Team co-owner John Barnes said Panther would "absolutely not" be changing its status at the end of the season. He refused to detail the financial offer made by the owners of Champ Car, citing a confidentiality agreement he signed.

One part he did confirm was an agreement to run Champ Car teams in next year's Indy 500, much as Panther did in 2003 with Michael Andretti. Barnes said he doesn't know which engine manufacturer his team will be partnered with in 2006. His staff will meet with top General Motors officials this week in an attempt to convince them to keep their Chevrolet brand with the league beyond this season. Barnes said he has a group of Chevrolet dealership owners that wants the manufacturer to stay in Indy-car racing. But if GM doesn't come back, Barnes said his team will become a Honda outfit. Indy Star [Editor's Note: Racing makes interesting bedfellows as they say. The IRL will have difficulty filling the 33-car Indy 500 field in coming years, but Champ Car has agreed to help do that while the IRL to this day continues to try and put Champ Car out of business by undermining it at every turn. Instead of building its own marquee event on Memorial Day weekend, something that will take time, we hear there can be as many as 12 Champ Car drivers that attempt to qualify for next year's Indy 500.]

07/22/05 Former Indy Racing League championship-winning team Panther are in talks about making a high-profile defection to Champ Cars, according to a report in this week's Autosport magazine.

The team's sponsor Pennzoil is believed to be keen to make a return to Champ Cars after eight years in the IRL, and senior figures from the outfit are believed to have held talks with Champ Car president Dick Eidswick. Panther Motorsport co-owner Doug Bowles told Autosport: "We've got a lot of unanswered questions, the first being what's our engine situation going to look like. We wanted to create a relationship with Kevin (Kalkhoven) and Gerry (Forsythe) since we're carrying their flag in the IRL with the Cosworth."

There is a possibility of the team fielding entries in both the IRL and Champ Cars next year. "Some of the potential sponsors we've been talking to also wanted us to look at both series."

07/16/05 The Indy Star reports that Panther, an Indianapolis-based team, has won two championships in the IRL and a series-high 15 races in eight IRL seasons, but it has issues to resolve. It doesn't have a primary sponsor or an engine partner lined up for 2006.

That means no Pennzoil, no Rockstar Energy Drink, no Chevrolet. And yet, team leader John Barnes isn't concerned at this moment. "Because there isn't any point in worrying about that right now," he said. Barnes said it will be September before Panther's plans come into focus, but it's clear that one of the IRL's oldest teams is considering different roads.

Barnes confirmed a recent meeting with Champ Car World Series officials about joining that series. Members of his organization also have spoken with officials from NASCAR and the Grand American Road Racing series, he said.

"We're in the racing business," Barnes said of the talks. "But the main goal of every owner at Panther Racing is to win the Indy 500, if that gives you any idea (of the team's direction)."

Scheckter isn't sure where Panther is headed, which leaves him in limbo, too. He said his preference is to remain with the team for a third consecutive season, but he knows he must be ready to alter his plans. Scheckter, a South African, tested a Formula 3000 car earlier this week in Germany, part of his country's desire to field a team in the European-based series.

"I haven't signed anything," Scheckter said. "But I think I maybe could keep my focus in North America and still do the other." [Editor's Note: With the rumored South Africa Champ Car race in the works, what better driver to have in Champ Car than Tomas Scheckter, a South African. While he may have built his career in the IRL, the fact remains his leaving the IRL will have very little affect on the IRL's popularity, but imagine the positive effect on Scheckter's career should he be able to race in his native country. We suspect this rumor hinges on Champ Car landing the South Africa race, though there may be more to it than we are aware of.]

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