Panther’s Barnes honored with “Spirit of Hope” award

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It was not the easiest year for Panther Racing on track in IndyCar this year, but team principal John Barnes did have something to celebrate on Tuesday.

Barnes was awarded the “Spirit of Hope” award in a ceremony at the United States Pentagon. The Spirit of Hope award is given annually to individuals whose, “commitment and dedication to service in support of the Armed Forces and their families embodies the ideals and values exemplified by the late Mr. Bob Hope.”

“This was an unbelievably humbling experience,” Barnes said in a release. “I can’t thank Admiral Winnefeld and everybody with the Department of Defense enough for this honor. When you work as closely as we do with National Guard soldiers and their families you can’t help but do everything in your power to support them however possible. I feel like Panther can always do more, and we’re always looking for ways to improve all of our programs and to represent all those men and women in the best way possible. But we don’t do it for awards like this; we do it because it’s right.”

At every IndyCar event, Barnes and the Panther team honor a “hometown hero” on behalf of the National Guard. Most recently the team formed its “Operation: Hire Our Guard” veteran unemployment program that fights unemployment issues facing National Guard soldiers.

The team released its first bit of sponsorship news earlier Wednesday with confirmation Charter Media has joined up in a multi-year partnership that includes at least one race as primary sponsor. Other details regarding its sponsorship portfolio or driver lineup for 2014 have yet to be revealed.

After JR Hildebrand was dismissed following the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and Carlos Munoz took control of the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet the rest of the season. None of the three matched Hildebrand’s best result of fifth, achieved at Long Beach in April.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).