Ed Carpenter found himself on the IndyCar sidelines after Vision Racing opted to suspend operations due to a lack of sponsorship, but the team announced Thursday that it would return to action for the Indianapolis 500 in association with Panther Racing. Carpenter will drive a No. 20 Dallara-Honda alongside the team's regular driver, Dan Wheldon.
"I am very pleased that we have this opportunity to partner with an excellent organization. This collaboration with Panther Racing will allow two teams that want nothing else but to compete and strive for success in the upcoming Indianapolis 500 the opportunity to do so to the best of their abilities," said Vision team owner Tony George. "With this partnership between teams and drivers, we will also be able to maximize the potential of both parties and field what I am sure will be a very formidable two-car effort. There are close personal and professional relationships within our two organizations that should allow us to put forth a cohesive effort we will all be proud of and have high expectations for achieving results."
"We looked at a lot of opportunities for the month of May, and as strong as Vision Racing has run the last few years, we felt like partnering with them made a lot of sense for us," said John Barnes, CEO and co-owner of Panther Racing. "I feel that Ed (Carpenter) is a threat to win at any race he runs, and he's proven that to this league in the last two or three years. His addition to the National Guard team along with Dan Wheldon is going to make our entire team stronger. I honestly hope this isn't a one-and-done deal, and we very much look forward to the opportunity of expanding this and running more IZOD IndyCar Series races together this season."
Carpenter, 29, is coming off a 2009 season in which he earned his career best finish of second, matched his career best start of fourth, led 35 laps and drove to six top-10 finishes.
"I am very excited not only to be returning to the Indianapolis 500, but also working with Panther Racing," said Carpenter who finished fifth and eighth in the last two runnings of the Indianapolis 500. "John Barnes has been a family friend for a long time, and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I feel that with my experience, Vision Racing's experience and Panther Racing's experience and success at Indianapolis that we will be a very competitive duo. It has been very hard watching from the sidelines so far this season, and I am very motivated to compete for my first win."
Panther's Wheldon is currently ninth in the championship standings after the first two races of the 2010 season. The team has also finished runner-up in each of the last two Indianapolis 500s – in 2008 with Vitor Meira and last year with Wheldon.
"I believe the addition of Ed Carpenter and Vision Racing to the National Guard Panther Racing group is phenomenal," added Wheldon who earned three top-five and nine top-10 finishes last season. "Ed's always been very quick, especially around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I'm very much looking forward to being able to have a teammate of his caliber. I know we'll work together well and be able to move the team forward, which will give us both a chance to win. And it's also very positive to have Vision's involvement in the Panther program. I'm excited about being able to use some of their expertise and it's great to see them back on track – they're a team that was very close to their first IndyCar victory in Kentucky last year, and this partnership will get all of us one step close to Victory Lane."
George added that he remains hopeful of reinstating Vision Racing as a full-time IZOD IndyCar Series team.
"It has been an exceptionally long and extended off-season for Vision Racing that has recently had us turning our attention solely to the Indianapolis 500," George said. "The challenge of putting together a sponsorship package to enable Vision Racing to run the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule proved to be much more difficult than anticipated, but our intention is to be back competing full time in the future. Taking part in the 2010 Indianapolis 500 has been a priority and, while we have yet to solidify a sponsorship lineup for the No. 20 Panther-Vision entry for Indy, it is our expectation to be able to make some sponsorship announcements in the coming weeks."