After weeks of speculation as to where Dan Wheldon and his impeccable style will land following the 2008 IndyCar Series season, the question has finally been answered, and it’s back to Panther Racing for the Brit.
After beginning his career with Panther Racing in 2002, Wheldon later moved to Andretti Green and finally to Target Chip Ganassi, where he has spent the previous two seasons.
Ganassi is the location of his closest run for the title to date, finishing second in 2006 in a tiebreaker, and is currently running third going into the final race at Chicagoland Speedway.
However, in previous weeks, Wheldon has been the source of many rumors regarding his status at Ganassi, as his performance has been less than stellar throughout the season.
The most prevalent, and generally accepted plan, was that Ganassi was “thinking” about releasing Wheldon in an attempt to convince him to perform better, and would re-sign him at the end of the 2008 season at a reduced price. This will not be the case, with Dario Franchitti stepping into Wheldon’s ride for the start of the 2009 season.
Wheldon has reportedly signed a multiyear contract with Panther Racing, and will join Vitor Miera in racing the #4 in the very near future. Sources have stated Panther is angling for a release from Ganassi in time for Wheldon to join the team at Surfers Paradise, a non-points race in Australia.
In addition to the news surrounding Dan Wheldon’s contract situation, the future of Dario Franchitti has also been in question. That question was answered, with Franchitti staying with Ganassi to move back to IndyCar and step into Dan Wheldon’s ride. Franchitti, who left for NASCAR after winning the points title last season, struggled, with his season ending after breaking his ankle in a Nationwide race at Talladega Speedway.
Franchitti hopes to be competitive in the series, specifically at the level at which he ended the 2007 season. A year spent racing much different cars, however, may cause him trouble.
A major question also remains in how well his broken ankle will heal, and if any fear will remain when he steps back into an IndyCar. Also, much has changed in the series since 2007, with the addition of more road courses and many more drivers, something Franchitti is not used to.
Only time will tell how Dario Franchitti fares in his return to IndyCar, and how Dan Wheldon survives his move to a smaller race team.