|Motor racing team|
|Team Principal(s)||John Barnes
|Former series||IndyCar Series|
Four years in a row (2008–2011), the team finished second at the Indianapolis 500. In the 2011 Indy 500 the team's rookie driver J. R. Hildebrand was leading when he crashed on the final turn of the final lap. He coasted across the finish line to place second.
The team was started in late 1997, beginning racing in the IRL's 1998 season, with sponsorship from Pennzoil and six owners—open-wheel racing team manager John Barnes, Indianapolis car dealer Gary Pedigo, former radio personality Mike Griffin, television production executive Terry Lingner, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh and City of Indianapolis director of corporate government affairs Doug Boles sharing in ownership of the team. The cars carried an unusual yellow and black paint scheme, as Pennzoil ditched its traditional all-yellow livery in favour of a Sam Bass design as part of changes by the sponsor when they added NASCAR sponsorship in 1998. (Bass, a well-known race car motorsport livery designer, wanted more focus on black instead of the traditional yellow to reflect Pennzoil's sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 1998—Earnhardt's signature color, and it was shown on the Pennzoil IRL car.) The team's top car bore #4, which reflected Harbaugh's jersey number with the Colts. Scott Goodyear drove the car and scored modest success, finishing seventh in championship standings.
Goodyear closed his driving career during the 2000 season with the Panther team, winning his last race (Texas in October), and finishing second to Buddy Lazier in overall points. The team also reverted to traditional Pennzoil yellow for 2000, turning away from the Sam Bass yellow and black Pennzoil design, but keeping its General Motors affiliation, as Gary Pedigo owns a Chevrolet dealership.
For the 2001 season, the team signed second-year driver Sam Hornish Jr., who had made his debut at PDM Racing, as its driver. He won the IRL Championship by 105 points and earned three wins (Phoenix, Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Texas in October). The impressive season included 11 top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes. Interestingly, the team chose not to wear the champion's #1, owing instead to wearing Harbaugh's #4 for identity purposes, owing to marketing of the team as #4 out of respect for Harbaugh. Ironically, Harbaugh paid respect to A. J. Foyt during his final year in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers when he wore #14, because kicker John Kasay wears #4 for the Charlotte-based team.
The team repeated its season championship in 2002. However, with an influx of new teams from the troubled CART defecting to the IRL, the loyalists were disadvantaged, and when Hornish was unable to continue his success in the 2003 season, he left for Penske Racing.
In 2004, Team Menard merged into Panther Racing, which had Mark Taylor and Tomas Scheckter driving the Chevrolets for the season, with Taylor the #2 Johns Manville Chevrolet, and Scheckter the #4 Pennzoil Chevrolet. Taylor was fired mid-2004 through the team's worst drought, caused by an uncompetitive engine.
For the 2005 season, Rockstar Energy Drink, replaced Johns Manville as the primary sponsor of the #2 car, with Tomáš Enge as its driver, while Scheckter stayed with the #4, winning at Texas Motor Speedway.
Shell Oil was not happy with their sponsorship, and withdrew as primary sponsor for the team. However, new sponsorship was found and Vitor Meira was confirmed as their driver for 2006, with a series of different sponsors (including EcoNova, Harrah's, Revive!, and Lincoln Tech) throughout the year on the #4 Honda. Pennzoil remained on the car as an associate sponsor.
For 2007, Kosuke Matsuura joined Panther as a second car, running Panasonic sponsorship and in association with the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri, with the #55. Meira's #4 carried Delphi sponsorship. Both drivers had so-so years, with Matsuura taking a top five at Michigan. For 2008, Matsuura was released from the 55 and Panasonic sponsorship went to the 27 of rookie Hideki Mutoh for Andretti Green Racing. Meira's team remained unchanged. Meira scored a second place finish for Panther Racing at the 2008 Indianapolis 500, earning more than a million dollars.
In 2009 former IndyCar Series champ and Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon replaced Meira in the Panther #4 car, with the U.S. National Guard as the primary sponsor. Veteran driver Scott Sharp competed in the #16 Patron car for the team at the Indy 500. Wheldon finished second, with Sharp off the pace.
In 2010, Wheldon remained with the team and again placed second in the Indianapolis 500, however the team was not a factor for most of the season. The squad also ran a limited schedule with Ed Carpenter, scoring a second place finish at Kentucky. Wheldon departed the team after the season, while Carpenter signed on with Sarah Fisher Racing.
In 2009, Firestone Indy Lights champion J.R. Hildebrand signed a multi-year contract to drive the #4 National Guard car starting in 2011. Hildebrand was released from his contract after the 2013 Indy 500. Ryan Briscoe and Oriol Servia alternated in the #4 car for the remainder of the season. Briscoe was injured in Race 1 of the Toronto doubleheader. With Servia unavailable, Panther Racing got Indy Lights points leader (at the time) Carlos Muñoz to drive the #4 for race 2.
In 2014, Panther Racing sued Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and IndyCar, alleging it lost the National Guard sponsorship worth $17.2 million because of bid rigging. Without the National Guard sponsorship, Panther did not field an entry for the start of the 2014 season. In April a report stated that only a skeleton staff remained with the organization, and their equipment was sold to KV Racing Technology to field a fourth entry for James Davison at the 2014 Indianapolis 500. The team announced that its remaining assets would be sold of at auction on July 23.
Drivers who have driven for Panther
- Dave Steele (1998–1999)
- Scott Goodyear (1998–2000)
- Sam Hornish Jr. (2001–2003)
- Dan Wheldon (2002, 2009–2010)
- Billy Boat (2003) (Indy 500 only)
- Robby McGehee (2003) (Indy 500 only)
- Mark Taylor (2004)
- Townsend Bell (2004–2005; 2013 Indy 500)
- Tomas Scheckter (2004–2005)
- Tomáš Enge (2005)
- Buddy Lazier (2005)
- Vitor Meira (2006–2008)
- Kosuke Matsuura (2007)
- John Andretti (2007) (Indy 500 only)
- Hideki Mutoh (2007) (Chicagoland only)
- Scott Sharp (2009) (Indy 500 only)
- Ed Carpenter (2010)
- J.R. Hildebrand (2011–2013)
- Buddy Rice (2011) (Indy 500 only)
- Ryan Briscoe (2013)
- Oriol Servià (2013)
- Carlos Muñoz (2013)
Complete IRL IndyCar Series results
- 1 Non-points-paying, exhibition race.
- Associated Press (February 28, 2014). "INDYCAR: PANTHER RACING SUES SERIES, RAHAL OVER SPONSORSHIP". Foxsports.com. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
- Panther Racing's IndyCar run looks like it's over Curt Cavin, USA Today Sports, April 10, 2014.
- DeGroot, Nick. "Panther Racing assets to be auctioned off". Retrieved 12 July 2014.
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