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Q&A: Dan Wheldon ( Panther Racing).

Well, I didn't know that to tell you the truth. I mean, that's certainly something, to have been around a long time. You're making me feel old, but I've had some great opportunities in IndyCar. I've been with some great teams, and I'm with a great team now. I'm working very hard towards adding to my win tally and, more importantly, adding another Indianapolis 500 to my résumé.

But I've very much enjoyed the IndyCar Series. I think it's certainly evolved since I first raced in 2002. The competition level now is very, very intense. I think even with the tough economic times that we have ahead of us, the series continues to thrive, and with partners like National Guard being involved with Panther Racing, with Honda and Firestone and Dallara, I expect it to just get stronger and stronger.

I'm proud to be part of it. I really, really do enjoy all the different types of disciplines that we go to. You go to a three-quarter mile track at Richmond and then we go to a real big oval like Indianapolis or on the streets of Long Beach. We go to Watkins Glen, we've got the one-mile up in Milwaukee. It's incredibly challenging, and I enjoy that aspect of it.

I definitely like the way Brian Barnhart runs the series. I think the element of competition and safety he continues to evolve as best he can and to put on a great spectacle for the fans. I hope I can do many more races, but I think the one thing that I've learned in those 100 races is how good that milk tastes [at the Indianapolis 500], and I'd definitely like to taste it again.

Q:
A couple questions about your return to Panther. Being with Panther, when you've also had the opportunity to race for Andretti Green and Target Chip Ganassi - two very good teams in the IndyCar Series - what do you notice between those three teams? How are they different from each other in terms of philosophy, in terms of how they approach things, not necessarily one way is better than the other, but obviously everybody does things a little bit differently. What are some of the differences that you notice between the three teams and how they go about things?

DW:
Well, that's a hard thing to say. They're all very, very different, obviously. I would say that Panther is obviously a smaller operation being a one-car team, and some people say it's more of like a family-type atmosphere. But, to some degree, I think that it doesn't... when you say that about Panther Racing, what people miss with that, although it does have that element, it's incredibly driven. Everybody in the shop is very, very hungry, and I must say that about Andretti Green and Target Chip Ganassi Racing. That's the common goal that they all share.

Now, they're run in different ways. I think obviously Target Chip Ganassi Racing is more of a corporate-type team; Andretti Green is obviously a very big operation running four cars. But if I was to tell you all the differences, we'd probably be on this teleconference for a long time. They're all very, very different but, by the same token, they all have that same goal and passion to win. The personnel that the teams have are very, very talented, and that's what you need to be able to win in the IndyCar Series.

I've been part of these teams for a long time - obviously Andretti Green for three years, a little bit more than that actually, and the same with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and now being part of Panther, they're all great experiences. They are different, but they are all great in their own ways.

As a driver, what you have to do is maximise the positives from the team. There's always going to be stuff in teams that perhaps one does better than the other, but you've really got to make sure that you get the best out of the team that you're part of and use the experience that you've had in different teams to make the team that you're with currently be better.

I really am enjoying my time at Panther Racing. Being a one-car team, there's a lot of responsibility on me, and I like that aspect. I'm looking forward to really growing and being a big part of the team. Like I say, they're all very good in their own ways, and I've really enjoyed being part of all of them, I really have, both from a business standpoint and a personal standpoint.

Q:


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Indy Racing League. 24-25 Feb. 2009. IRL Homestead Test.  Homestead Internation Raceway. Homestead, Florida. Dan Wheldon.
Mikhail Aleshin waits on pitlane prior to practice at Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Munoz waits on pit lane in Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The crew of Mikhail Aleshin go to work in the pits (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power and Carlos Munoz flank winner Mike Conway during their victory lap (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Huertas (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Jack Hawksworth enters the hairpin during practice at Long Beach (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Huertas waits on pitlane prior to the start (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon rolls out of pitlane during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Munoz with a champagne surprise (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway celebrating his victory (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Munoz, Mike Conway and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Munoz, Mike Conway and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway celebrates victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway celebrates victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway in action in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway poses for pictures after victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway poses for pictures after victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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