Dan Wheldon reckons he has made a breakthrough with his road course performances after a strong run in St Petersburg last weekend.
Although the former IndyCar champion won the series' first ever street event in St Pete in 2005, he has otherwise struggled to replicate his oval form on road and street courses. But last weekend he ran as high as second before a tangle with Robert Doornbos ended his race.
"It was certainly an area that we've worked on over the winter," said Wheldon, who moved from Ganassi to Panther Racing at the end of 2008. "I've always, being a European, thought very highly of the road courses but had some difficulty. So between the engineering department at the new team and everybody there, we've already made a big effort to step up my performance and step up the team's performance, and that certainly showed over the weekend.
"We've still got a little bit of work to do, making sure that we're consistent over a race weekend and making sure that we just had the ability to fine tune the race car rather than make big changes. To be quite frank, I thought it was probably the most confidence I've had in a road course car for a long time, probably ever. So it was a very promising race for us."
He said the unfortunate end to his race did not detract from the encouragement his performance had given him.
"It was Robert Doornbos that tried to get down the inside of me, and I tried to give him as much room as I could, knowing that he was pretty committed. But he just ran over my outside front wheel," said Wheldon. "So that was a disappointing way to finish what was a very, very good race, but by the same token I was very happy that we had great pace. I think for a lot of people, including myself, at Panther Racing, we were very excited, and now we're very hungry to get to Long Beach."