Panther Racing finds a fast way to give to Guard

For a fifth consecutive May, the Izod IndyCar Series team gave free two-seater rides to local members of the National Guard-the primary sponsor for the team.

SPEEDWAY - The cameoflage made him a fan from a far.

Stationed in Iraq in May of 2011 indiana National Guard Staff Seargent Matt Luzar got a chance to catch the Indianapolis 500 on television. 

As would many in his position, he became drawn into the storyline that involved the car which in theory was representing him-the No. 4 National Guard car from Panther Racing. 

From the Middle East Luzar watched the drama unfold as rookie JR Hildebrand got the lead in the final laps of the race only to lose it on a last turn crash to the late Dan Wheldon.

"It was the hard watching the National Guard car crash at the very end," said Luzar-but there were no hard feelings.

In fact it was that exact team that made a goal of his a reality on Tuesday morning.

"I grew up in Speedway, next to the track. So riding the in two-seater has always been a dream of mine," said Luzar.

A number of others got the chance to do so at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Panther Racing aided nearly 50 members of the Indiana National Guard with complimentary two-seater rides. 

"Incredible warriors, its just a way to give back to them," said Panther Racing owner John Barnes, who created the program back in 2008.

Each member of the guard got a chance to get around the track for a warm-up lap then hot lap at near 180 miles an hour. The group of guardsman rode in Panther's National Guard two-seater along with the Izod and Number 77 HP machines.

"It's a good experience, its a once in a lifetime experience," said Seargent Michael Myers of the Indiana National Guard.

Luzar said the G-Force experienced during the ride was like nothing he'd felt before while many other around him boasted about the speed and adrenaline felt during the few minutes on the track. For Barnes giving the guardsmen this experience is all apart of being a strong partner with their primary sponsor. 

The two-seater rides are among the many events done by the team throughout the Indianapolis 500 month and the entire Izod IndyCar Series season.

"It's our duty," said Barnes. "What a great oppoturnity for us to interact with those great warriors and the things that they do for us on a daily basis. It's just incredible."

There were more than a few others saying the same on Tuesday.

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