PANTHER 2013 SEASON REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS TEAM'S OFF-TRACK EFFORTS DURING HECTIC INDYCAR SEASON
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (November 1, 2013) – Like every season in the IndyCar Series 2013 blew by at 230 mph with a cloud of tire smoke. For Panther Racing the year was equally as active away from the racetrack as it was during a 19-race season that concluded last week in Fontana, California. And while Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon received the league championship trophy at season’s end, Panther’s off-track efforts with its partners were unparalleled by any of its competitors.
Listed below is a look back on some of Panther Racing’s most memorable moments from the 2013 IndyCar Series season:
“Hire Our Guard” Hosts Over 1,000 Employers, 600+ Guard Guests:
This year Panther significantly expanded its efforts to fight the unemployment crisis facing National Guard soldiers with the formation of “Operation: Hire Our Guard”. The program focused on educating potential employers about both the growing unemployment rate amongst veterans and the reasons why soldiers make great employees. Over the course of the season Panther hosted over 1,000 employers and more than 600 National Guard guests, who all helped make the local connections necessary to facilitate hiring.
Throughout the year the team was joined by Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients (12 in total) along with many high-level employers, high-ranking military leaders, celebrities and media personalities during its programs. Many of the employers were able to take two-seater rides, tour the Panther garages, meet the team’s racecar driver and then complete their VIP experience with a thrilling up-close view of that weekend’s IndyCar Series race.
Briscoe, Munoz, Servia Join Panther’s Storied List of Former Drivers:
Following this year’s Indianapolis 500 Panther parted ways with driver JR Hildebrand and saw three of the IndyCar Series most talented and popular drivers share the reins of the team’s No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet. Former Team Penske driver, and Indy 500 polesitter, Ryan Briscoe started a total of six races for the team and Spaniard Oriol Servia took the helm for seven events in 2013. Briscoe’s best run of the season in the first race of the Toronto doubleheader was cut short when he was taken out of the race in an accident that resulted in a broken wrist for the 31-year-old. Briscoe’s injury opened the door for Carlos Munoz, the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, who was impressive during his one-race fill-in during the second race of the Toronto weekend.
While seemingly all the team’s drivers were plagued by inexplicably bad luck throughout the season, it was Servia who captured some of the team’s best results during the second half of the season - highlighted by a spirited drive from 21st to seventh place in the second race of the Houston Grand Prix – equaling a finish he had at Iowa Speedway earlier in the year.
Barnes Testifies Before Congress on Veteran Unemployment:
In March, Panther Racing Managing Partner John Barnes testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs during a Congressional hearing entitled, “Lowering the Rate of Unemployment for the National Guard and Reserve – Are We Making Progress?” Barnes gave an oral testimony highlighting the success of Panther’s “Operation: Hire Our Guard” program, which (in 2012) provided Veterans exposure to approximately 9,300 job opportunities and as many as 4,300 National Guard soldiers were employed as a result of the program.
Team Owner Harbaugh Coaches Super Bowl, Drives Indy 500 Pace Car:
Before the 2013 IndyCar Series season turned a lap Panther team owner Jim Harbaugh was at the doorstep of a championship. Harbaugh, a founding partner in the team, coached the San Francisco 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl in what was just his second season as an NFL head coach. As his team was preparing for the game the entire Panther team ordered 49ers hats and jerseys and took a team photo in front of a sign that read “Good Luck Jim” – a gesture that received a huge ‘thank you’ from the coach just days before the game. And while the Niners fell short in this year’s Super Bowl, their coach received a thrill unlike anything he’d experienced before when he was invited to drive the Chevrolet pacecar at the start of the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Hometown Hero Program Reaches 88 Total Honorees:
Since the National Guard first began its partnership with the National Guard in 2008 a staple of the partnership has been the team’s Hometown Hero program. The program started with Indiana National Guard SSG Patrick Shannon and honored soldiers across the country at nearly every Panther event in the six years that followed. Along the way the team made friends and fans, and heard first-hand about some of the most heroic efforts performed both domestically and abroad by amazing men and women across the country. In the final race of the season the team honored SSG Joseph Brito, who became the 88th Hometown Hero to be honored by the team during its Guard partnership.
Movie Star IndyCars: Superman, Pink Panthers, Patriots & Racing Snails:
Panther went Hollywood for this year’s Indianapolis 500, as the team entered two cars in the historic event, both sponsored by summer blockbuster movies. The National Guard’s partnership with the Superman Man of Steel movie gave the team’s No. 4 entry a unique look for May. The team added driver Townsend Bell for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the Californian drove the No. 60 Chevrolet, sponsored by the DreamWorks movie “Turbo” - an animated feature film that included a No. 60 IndyCar designed identical to the car Townsend ran in the ‘500’. Later in the summer at Pocono Raceway the team celebrated the Fourth of July and the 150th Anniversary of the Medal of Honor with a patriotic red, white and blue paint scheme that was driven by Briscoe. And no IndyCar season would be complete without an appearance from the popular “Pink Camo” car, which the team used again this year in Mid-Ohio to honor female members of the National Guard.
Panther Fan Village Display Draws Nearly 300,000 Fans:
The IndyCar Fan Village has been a welcome addition to the racetrack experience of IndyCar fans across the country and Panther’s display area has been one of its biggest attractions. The National Guard display, which featured a full-size iRacing simulator, punching bags and – at select events – a Lincoln Tech tire-change station for fans, drew nearly 300,000 fans over the course of the season. The team also introduced an official mascot “Clutch the Cat” who was a daily visitor to Fan Village for merchandise giveaways, dance competitions, and a whole array of craziness that become a major attraction for race fans.
Employer Outreach Visits 12 Non-IndyCar States:
In an effort to extend beyond just the states that host IndyCar events, and to reach areas of the country where the unemployment crisis is severe, Panther took its employment program on the road. Following a similar structure as the at-track “Hire Our Guard” programs, Panther hosted 12 single-day events called “Boss Lifts”. The events included a behind-the-scenes look at military training and a ride in the IndyCar Experience two-seater. The program concluded with the team’s on-stage employment program which helped further emphasize to attending employers the importance of hiring veterans for their respective companies.
Six Youth ChalleNGe “Racing Toward Success” Scholarships Awarded:
At the start of the year Panther Racing and the National Guard Youth Foundation announced the “Racing Toward Success” Scholarship program for graduates of the Youth ChalleNGe program. Three programs – Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe (Los Alamitos, Calif.), Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe (Knightstown, Ind.) and Freestate ChalleNGe (Edgewood, MD) – each nominated one male and one female graduate, each of whom was presented with $2,000 scholarships at their respective races.
Three Lincoln Tech Students Experience Mentor Program:
While Lincoln Tech has been a longtime partner of Panther Racing, the team expanded its program with the technical college this year and invited select students to the track to experience life in racing up close. After taking written submissions early in the year Panther selected three events to host a Lincoln Tech student to be part of its mentor program. At each of those events the student was integrated into the Panther team to serve as an honorary crew member for the weekend, allowing them to learn the intricacies of working in professional motorsports.
Barnes Receives Prestigious “Spirit of Hope” Award:
The season concluded with one of the highest honors in team history as John Barnes was named as a recipient of the prestigious “Spirit of Hope” Award which is given annually to individuals whose, “commitment and dedication to service in support of the Armed Forces and their families embodies the ideals and values exemplified by the late Mr. Bob Hope.” The award is presented to men and women of the Armed Forces, entertainers and other distinguished Americans or organizations that embody Hope’s commitment and service to the men and women of the military. Previous recipients included actor Gary Sinise, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Walter Cronkite, Ann-Margret and former President George H. W. Bush.