Report: Panther pondering expansion into sports cars

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With GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series preparing for their merger next year under the United SportsCar Racing banner, an IZOD IndyCar Series squad is thinking about a potential expansion into the new league. RACER Magazine’s Marshall Pruett is reporting that Panther Racing, which fields the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet in IndyCar (pictured), is eyeing plans to add a sports car side to its team.

Many details about USCR’s inaugural campaign are still unknown at this time, including the exact schedule of events. But Panther co-owner John Barnes believes that with the two major factions of North American sports car racing coming together, the time is right to start another program that can compliment its open-wheel work.

“I think that financially, it’s a very viable solution,” Barnes said to Pruett this week. “It has a customer base that will support the sponsors and partners we can attract. It has a bunch of famous races: the 24 Hours of Daytona, Sebring, Petit Le Mans, Watkins Glen and some premier events to look at.

“With direction from Mr. France and the NASCAR marketing department, it has the ability to be very successful and I think it can be done with some drivers you choose and also with some who have some sponsors and are looking for a competitive situation. It’s a very solid business opportunity for us that would run as a separate program to our IndyCar team.”

Panther has raced in the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1998, earning back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002 with Sam Hornish Jr.