Panther Racing launches Panther Education Center

Three new words are affixed outside the front of the Panther Racing shop: Panther Education Center.

Those words represent the start of a new educational program for science, math, physics and engineering that is being launched by the IndyCar Series team. The program is the brainchild of Panther co-owner John Barnes and his wife, Jane.

"We had this idea, and we're building this program," John Barnes said.

Said Jane Barnes: "The curriculum has been written for middle grade students. It's a very important part of what we're doing. Students will learn about science and logistics in a very interesting way. The architectural drawing has been completed. It will operate something like a field trip, with pre-trip information. They'll spend three hours here, and they'll have post-trip information and use our Web site from the classroom and do some of the things they do at the center.

"We've had calls from all over, and we're really excited about it. The program will be starting in the fall, and the facility will be ready for booking in 2008."

Panther already has a relationship with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), with three interns working with the team.

"We have a great relationship with IUPUI," John Barnes said. "They want to take this road show to each race and show gifted students what interns are doing in an effort to get them to come to IUPUI."

On the racing side, drivers Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura think they have their best chance to win at Indy for the 91st Indianapolis 500. Meira finished second two years ago, and he's in his second season with Panther.

"I've been thinking about that for two years," Meira said. "The win is going to come when it's going to come. It didn't, but it will. Thanks to Delphi, we're going to be able to focus more on development than just getting to the track. I've finished second (here). I only have one more place to get."

2004 Chase Rookie of the Year Matsuura figures the Panther opportunity is the best he's had at Indy.

"In 2004, I had a great month of May," he said. "I had really good speed. But I think this will be a good car for Indianapolis. I have a good owner in John Barnes, a good teammate in Vitor and a good team. We're going for the top five." More at Indanapolis Motor Speedway.

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