John Barnes has earned his place as one of the most well-known and widely-respected figures in American motorsports through hard work and decades of experience. Barnes’ has said the first time he heard an Indy-car he knew the sport was in his blood. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the driving influence in his career from a young age, where he started as a parts chaser for Vatis Racing.
Throughout his years, Barnes has held positions in nearly every facet of racing operations; working his way from gofer, mechanic, car builder, chief mechanic, team manager up to his current post as CEO and co-owner of Panther Racing. JB gave little-known Sam Hornish Jr. his first full-time ride in the IndyCar Series and future Indy 500 and league champion Dan Wheldon made his debut in one of Barnes’ Panther cars.
Amazingly, Barnes has remained as busy away from the racetrack, and is active in the very community where he was raised; moving the Panther Racing shop within miles of his boyhood home. Barnes is also a board member with the IRL Ministry, Decatur Central Athletic Foundation and Best Buddies of Indiana – a charity Panther Racing has supported since the team’s inception in 1997. Then, the day before the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500, Barnes and wife Jane joined long-time friend Don Stinson, Superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township, to announce the formation of the Panther Education Center, an experiential motorsports learning facility the team plans to open in the winter of 2007.
His experience extends well beyond the open wheel racing scene where he has made his name. Barnes’ first hands-on experience in NASCAR racing came in 1993 when he went to work for stock car legend Richard Petty’s Petty Enterprises and for then-driver Wally Dallenbach. Since his experience with Petty’s team, Barnes has been brought in on several occasions to coach NASCAR drivers in how to master the difficult 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval after NASCAR first debuted at the Brickyard in 1994. That experience was highlighted in 1997 when John coached NASCAR legend Ricky Rudd all the way to Victory Lane in the Brickyard 400, a first for both he and the driver.
Barnes has been the leader of Panther since its inception and the 28 race victories and three championships the team has collected in the past 12 seasons would not have been possible without his leadership, keen eye for talent and no-nonsense approach to the sport he loves.