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Wheldon praises crew for perfect day.


Former race winner Dan Wheldon admitted that, while his Panther Racing entry had been strong throughout, it simply did not have the legs to run with Helio Castroneves' Penske example as the Brazilian checked out for Indianapolis 500 victory.

The National Guard-backed Panther team combined with Wheldon to produce a dramatic climb from 18th on the grid to be bidding for the Briton's second 500 success at the race's eighth and final caution, but Wheldon admitted that, when Castroneves blasted away at the restart, he could not live with the pace. Indeed, the former series champion fell into the clutches of third-placed Danica Patrick - who had Townsend Bell closing rapidly in fourth - and was happy just to bring the #4 car home in second place, replicating predecessor Vitor Meira's achievement from 2008.

"I just didn't have enough for Helio, and I was also having to fight off Danica," the Briton confirmed, "It was just Helio's day today, he was incredibly quick, but, if we keep running like this, then things are going to go our way - and I can tell you that I'm already excited about coming to Indianapolis next year with these guys.

"There's nothing more that we could have done in this race. I was still fighting a little bit of an imbalance in the race car, but I think everybody was - it was difficult conditions out there. Danica is just a formidable competitor that doesn't give up - although I wish she perhaps would have done so today because I was sweating with how loose I was. Otherwise, I would say this is exactly the same [as 2005], it's just the result wasn't there, but I'm not going to give up on this place until I win again, that's for sure."

Wheldon was quick to pay tribute to Panther's pit crew for keeping him in the hunt. Having started the race from the sixth row - just as he did when he won the 500 in 2005 - Wheldon's climb up the field was slow and methodical, but aided by six pit-stops that saw him gain positions on every trip to pit-lane. The Briton gained a total of nine positions on pit-stops alone, and improved a total of 16 spots in the race.

On the team's final stop, Wheldon jumped from fourth to third and remained there until second-placed runner Ryan Briscoe had to pit for fuel. The final restart of the race on lap 183 then saw Castroneves pull out a near two-second lead, leaving Wheldon to fight off Patrick and Bell.

"It was relatively non-eventful, and I didn't get into too many close calls, but I thought the guys did an absolute phenomenal job in the pits," he commented, "We didn't qualify as well as we would have liked, and that puts you in a difficult position in terms of your pit position. With that said, however, they were still able to make up a lot of spots each time.

"The crew was absolutely phenomenal today, and they certainly made my job a lot easier. They were the best crew in the field today and they should be very proud of this performance. To be fair to Townsend, I think he must have overtaken me about five times this race but, every time I came into the pits, the guys put me back in front of him."

The result propels Wheldon to seventh in the IndyCar Series standings, just 16 points behind points leader Dario Franchitti.

"The execution of everything by the Panther team was spot on, and I'm not sure there is too much we could have done better," the Briton reflected, "Not many times in my IndyCar career have I left the track and felt we executed everything perfectly, but today was one of those days."


Related Pictures

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Dan Wheldon (Panther) battles Danica Patrick (Andretti Green) in the closing stages of the 93rd Indianapolis 500   [pic credit: IRL/Helrigel]
Conor Daly leads at the 2014 Dan Wheldon Memorial kart event   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Will Power accepts the Verizon P1 Award from Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead after winning the pole for Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle Park (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a fourteenth-place finish Saturday, July 13, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Power lost the championship points lead to teammate Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, who finished eighth. (Photo by Dan Streck/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves in action (Photo by: Dan Boyd for IndyCar Media)
Sage Karam and Helio Castroneves (Photo by: Dan Boyd for IndyCar Media)
Jack Hawksworth at IMS (Photo by: Dan Boyd for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud on track with Carlos Huertas (Photo by: Dan Boyd for IndyCar Media)
Sebastian Saavedra`s rebuilt #17 KV AFS Racing car makes its return to the track in practice on Tuesday at Indianapolis. (Photo by: Dan Boyd for IndyCar Media)
Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting logo
Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing) debriefs after a day at work on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday September 5 2013 as part of an evaluation of the configuration for possible use in future IZOD IndyCar Series events. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing) at work on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday September 5 2013 as part of an evaluation of the configuration for possible use in future IZOD IndyCar Series events. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing) at work on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday September 5 2013 as part of an evaluation of the configuration for possible use in future IZOD IndyCar Series events. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing) at work on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday September 5 2013 as part of an evaluation of the configuration for possible use in future IZOD IndyCar Series events. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing) at work on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday September 5 2013 as part of an evaluation of the configuration for possible use in future IZOD IndyCar Series events. (Photo Credit: Forrest Mellott for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe, driver of the #27 GoDaddy Andretti Autosport Chevrolet IndyCar finished 7th, and Oriol Servia driver of the #4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet IndyCar finished 12th Sunday, September 1, 2013 at the Grand Prix of Baltimore on the street circuit in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing)
Carlos Munoz takes over in the #4 National Guard Panther Racing car from the injured Ryan Briscoe in Toronto - Sunday, July 14 2013. (Photo Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
The crowd remembers a fallen hero while watching the Pocono IndyCar 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, July 7 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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