|Base||Indianapolis, Indiana, USA|
|Team principal(s)||John Barnes
|Former series||IndyCar Series|
|2001 IRL (Hornish Jr.)
2002 IRL (Hornish Jr.)
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 formed in late 1997, to compete in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League (now Verizon IndyCar Series), by 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 Indianapolis director of corporate government affairs Doug Boles.
Verizon IndyCar Series
For their first season in 1998, the team fielded the #4 Pennzoil G-Force GF01B-Oldsmobile Aurora L47 V8 for Scott Goodyear. The car had an unusual yellow and black paint scheme, as Pennzoil did not use its traditional all-yellow livery in favor of a Sam Bass design as part of changes by the company when they added NASCAR sponsorship to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. 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 Earnhardt and Earnhardt's signature black color). The car used #4, which reflected Harbaugh's jersey number with the Indianapolis Colts. The team would debut at the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Goodyear would start in 21st place (due to qualifying being rained and the top 20 starters being determined by 1996-1997 entrant standings and the remaining eight by practice speeds). Goodyear would finish in 17th place due to a suspension failure after 132 laps. Goodyear would then finish in 6th place (one lap down) at the following race, the Dura Lube 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Over the next seven races, Goodyear would finish in the top 6 five times and would get a best finish of 2nd place at the New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Goodyear was ranked in 5th place following the Atlanta 500 Classic at Atlanta Motor Speedway and would finish in 7th place with 244 points due to 22nd place finishes at the last two races of the season, the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and the Las Vegas 500K at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The team would also field the #43 Pennzoil G-Force GF01B-Oldsmobile Aurora L47 V8 for Dave Steele at Texas and Las Vegas. Steele would finish in 24th place at Texas and 27th place at Las Vegas. Steele would finish in 36th place in points with 22 points (Steele also drove for Helmut Marko Racing at Phoenix).
In 1999, Goodyear continued to drive for the team in the #4 Pennzoil G-Force GF01C-Oldsmobile Aurora L47 V8. At the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, Goodyear started in 4th place and finished in 2nd place after leading 36 laps. Goodyear would then win the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway after starting in 3rd place and leading for a race-high 134 laps. Goodyear would take the points lead following the race. Goodyear would then finish in a disappointing 27th place at the Indianapolis 500 due to an engine failure after 101 laps before winning the following race, the Longhorn 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, after leading the final 43 laps of the race. Following Texas, Goodyear would get a best finish of 12th place at the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway in the remaining six races of the season. Goodyear continued to hold the points lead following the MBNA Mid-Atlantic 200 at Dover Downs International Speedway (with three races left in the season). Goodyear would finish in 9th place in the final standings with 217 points. Steele would drive the #43 Pennzoil G-Force GF01C-Oldsmobile Aurora L47 V8 as a second car for the team at Indianapolis. Steele would crash in practice on May 19 and would suffer a concussion, causing him and the car to fail to qualify.
For 2000, Goodyear drove the #4 Pennzoil Dallara IR00-Oldsmobile Aurora L47 V8. The team began to use an all-yellow Pennzoil livery after using the Sam Bass-designed black and yellow livery the previous two seasons. At the season-opening Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, Goodyear started in 8th place and finished in 4th place. Goodyear would then finish in 2nd place at the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway and was ranked in 3rd place in points. Following Phoenix, Goodyear only had one finish outside of the top 12 (a 16th place finish at the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway) and was always ranked inside the top 4 in points. Goodyear would later win the pole position at the Belterra Resort Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway and finish in 2nd place to Buddy Lazier after leading a race-high 65 laps. Following the race, Goodyear was ranked in 2nd place in points and was 38 points behind Lazier (a win gives 50 points, while leading the most laps gave 2 points and qualifying on the pole position gave 1 point). At the season-ending Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Goodyear started in 2nd place and won the race after leading for 39 laps. Eddie Cheever (who was also eligible to win the championship due to being 4 point behind Lazier) would finish in 2nd place and Lazier would finish in 4th place. Goodyear would finish in 3nd place in the championship to Lazier by 18 points.
Goodyear went into semi-retirement starting in 2001 and second-year driver Sam Hornish, Jr. became the new driver of the #4 Pennzoil Dallara IR01-Oldsmobile Aurora L47 V8. Hornish would win the season-opening Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway after starting in 2nd place and leading 140 of 200 laps. Hornish would then win the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway after leading 142 of 200 laps. Hornish would only have one finish outside of the top 10 during the season (a 14th place finish at the Indianapolis 500) and his worst finish in the top 10 was a 6th place finish at the Harrah's 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. Hornish would also receive his first two pole positions of his career during the season at the Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway and the season-ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (although both races had their starting lineup determined by entrant standings). Hornish would clinch the championship at the next-to-last race of the season, the Delphi Indy 200 at Chicagoland Speedway, with a 2nd place finish. Hornish would then win the season-ending race at Texas after leading 115 laps. Hornish would win the championship with 503 points, beating Lazier by 105 points.
For 2002, Hornish returned to drive the #4 Pennzoil Dallara IR02-Chevrolet V8. At the season-opening Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Hornish qualified on the pole position and led for 166 of 200 laps to win the race. Hornish would then win the Yahmaha Indy 400 at California Speedway after leading for 73 laps and passing Jaques Lazier for the lead on the final lap on the main straightaway. During the season, Hornish would battle for the points lead with Marlboro Team Penske teammates Hélio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran. Hornish then had three races where he failed to finish better than 17th place (Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway) and would drop to 3rd place in points behind the Penske drivers following the Indianapolis 500 (where Hornish finished in 25th place, ten laps down, due to contact with the wall). Hornish would then win the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway after leading only the final 2 laps of the race. Hornish would reclaim the points lead following the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway with a 2nd place finish. After the following race, the Gateway Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway, Hornish was 8 points behind new leader Castroneves and 1 point behind de Ferran. Hornish would then win the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway by 0.0024 over Al Unser, Jr. after qualifying on the pole position and leading for 102 of 200 laps. Following the race, Hornish led Castroneves by 12 points and de Ferran by 38 points. De Ferran was injured in the race and would miss the season-ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. At Texas, Hornish started in 3rd place and led for 79 laps and would beat Castroneves for the victory. Hornish would win the championship with 531 points. The team would also field the #15 Pennzoil Dallara IR02-Chevrolet V8 at Chicagoland and Texas for Dan Wheldon (who would make his series debut in the car). At Chicagoland, Wheldon started in 7th place and finished in 10th place. At Texas, Wheldon started in 28th (last) place and would finish in 15th place, five laps down. Wheldon would finish in 36th place in points with 35 points.
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 off at auction on July 23. The team was officially listed as defunct in August 2014.
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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