National Guard July 2012 : Page 26

Driving Force AP By Andrew Waldman John Barnes, the head of Panther Racing, has two main passions: getting his Indy car to victory lane and fi nding jobs for Guardsmen HE HEADQUARTERS OF Panther Racing in India-napolis is a showcase for a successful IndyCar racing team that has plenty of checkered fl ags and two league championships. Plaques, banners and champion-ship cars fi ll the walls and hallways. Countless awards fi ght for attention in managing partner John Barnes’ offi ce. And artifacts from the history of rac-ing at the Indianapolis Motor Speed-way are everywhere. But he brushes by them to show off the item of which he is most proud. It is an Army combat uniform dis-played prominently on a wall free of any other adornments. A Purple Heart is pinned to the pocket. T The uniform was given to Barnes ( inset, above ) by Staff . Sgt. Patrick Shannon, an Indiana Guardsman who was named “Hometown Hero” in 2008 at one of Panther’s fi rst events as the National Guard-sponsored IndyCar team. After the prerace ceremony dur-ing which Barnes gave Shannon the award, which is presented to a Guardsman from the state in which each IndyCar race is held, the soldier pulled Barnes aside and handed him the uniform he’d worn in Iraq. Barnes says he was completely unprepared for the thoughtful gesture. “I had tears streaming down my face,” he says. The gift was the fi rst of many given since by Guardsmen to Barnes, his wife, Jane, and other members of the Panther team. And they only further fuel Barnes’ passion for his team’s main sponsor—the National Guard. When the deal was signed in 2008, the focus was simply recruiting and retention. Today, the relationship is closer, broader and deeper. “Jane and I spend a lot of time learning about how we can take our assets and better drive programs the Guard does,” Barnes says. This includes youth programs, visiting the wounded and recognizing Guardsmen who have distinguished themselves. They have even helped adapt IndyCar technology used to track traumatic brain injuries in driv-ers for use on the battlefi eld. The team has about $51 million in advertising exposure, giving it great power to tell the Guard story and ad-dress specifi c concerns that aff ect the individual soldier or airman. This season, Panther is focused on the high rate of unemployment among Guardsmen, which is upwards 26 | Na tional Guard

Driving Force

Andrew Waldman

John Barnes, the head of Panther Racing, has two main passions: getting his Indy car to victory lane and finding jobs for Guardsmen<br /> <br /> THE HEADQUARTERS OF Panther Racing in Indianapolis is a showcase for a successful IndyCar racing team that has plenty of checkered flags and two league championships.<br /> <br /> Plaques, banners and championship cars fill the walls and hallways. Countless awards fight for attention in managing partner John Barnes' office. And artifacts from the history of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are everywhere.<br /> <br /> But he brushes by them to show off the item of which he is most proud.<br /> <br /> It is an Army combat uniform displayed prominently on a wall free of any other adornments. A Purple Heart is pinned to the pocket.<br /> <br /> The uniform was given to Barnes (inset, above) by Staff . Sgt. Patrick Shannon, an Indiana Guardsman who was named "Hometown Hero" in 2008 at one of Panther's first events as the National Guard-sponsored IndyCar team.<br /> <br /> After the prerace ceremony during which Barnes gave Shannon the award, which is presented to a Guardsman from the state in which each IndyCar race is held, the soldier pulled Barnes aside and handed him the uniform he'd worn in Iraq.<br /> <br /> Barnes says he was completely unprepared for the thoughtful gesture.<br /> <br /> "I had tears streaming down my face," he says.<br /> <br /> The gift was the first of many given since by Guardsmen to Barnes, his wife, Jane, and other members of the Panther team. And they only further fuel Barnes' passion for his team's main sponsor-the National Guard.<br /> <br /> When the deal was signed in 2008, the focus was simply recruiting and retention. Today, the relationship is closer, broader and deeper.<br /> <br /> "Jane and I spend a lot of time learning about how we can take our assets and better drive programs the Guard does," Barnes says.<br /> <br /> This includes youth programs, visiting the wounded and recognizing Guardsmen who have distinguished themselves. They have even helped adapt IndyCar technology used to track traumatic brain injuries in drivers for use on the battlefield.<br /> <br /> The team has about $51 million in advertising exposure, giving it great power to tell the Guard story and address specific concerns that affect the individual soldier or airman.<br /> <br /> This season, Panther is focused on the high rate of unemployment among Guardsmen, which is upwards of 20 percent in some states.<br /> <br /> Panther has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes and the White House's Joining Forces programs, both of which help service members find employment.<br /> <br /> Barnes is a full-throttle advocate for hiring Guardsmen. He says their intelligence and leadership skills put them ahead of many other job applicants.<br /> <br /> "They bring such incredible life experiences," he says. "It gives them such a head start."<br /> <br /> Panther has developed a twist on the Boss Lift program. It gives employers a coveted IndyCar experience while emphasizing the value of hiring Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> Panther first started employment initiatives last season by hosting local employers at each race venue.<br /> <br /> In conjunction with Hiring Our Heroes, Panther has expanded the effort this year by hosting business leaders at each IndyCar Series event and supporting hiring fairs.<br /> <br /> The first of those events was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early May. About 30 employers from Kansas flew to Indianapolis on a military transport and spent the day learning about the Guard from Panther and Indiana Guardsmen at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Edinburgh, Ind.<br /> <br /> But the first event was a ride in an IndyCar two-seater car around the famous 2½-mile oval that is home of the Indianapolis 500.<br /> <br /> The promotional material for a ride in the IZOD IndyCar two-seater car bills it as the "fastest seat in sports." The car allegedly goes about 80 percent of the speed of an IndyCar used in competition. But that's basically a meaningless statement that in no way prepares the rider for the rush.<br /> <br /> The two-seater ride is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. The uninitiated feel more like they are blasting into outer space than screaming around the track at speeds in excess of 175 mph.<br /> <br /> And that's the point-to open the eyes of the rider in a way that they might never be open again.<br /> <br /> Like other Panther efforts, the rapid rides are a great way to expose employers to IndyCar and the Guard on the same day.<br /> <br /> After their rides, the Kansas employers were told about the job skills and strengths of Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> "An event like this is absolutely a home run," said Paul Weida, the vice president of government affairs at Black & Veatch, a global engineering firm. "There is a lot more that we can do. There is a lot more that needs to be done to thank our men and women by giving them jobs." <br /> <br /> Black & Veatch, which has its headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., has offices around the nation and the world. It already hires many veterans.Weida says that the event opened his eyes to the job market for Guardsmen.<br /> <br /> After zooming around the track, the employers toured Camp Atterbury's advanced training simulators.<br /> <br /> Pat George, the Kansas secretary of commerce, said the trip fit in well with the hiring initiatives already in place in his state.<br /> <br /> "They are all thinking of different ways that they can go back home and actually put what they've learned today into practice," George said of the Boss Lift participants. "It's a nice day away from their grind, but there is a mission and they will implement that when they get home."<br /> <br /> Aside from the employment initiatives, Barnes says he's working with IndyCar on several projects that could adapt some IndyCar safety technology to military use. The racing series' emphasis on safety means that it is constantly finding new ways to increase survivability for the driver.<br /> <br /> But this relationship is threatened by legislation in Congress that would prohibit the military from spending recruiting funds on motorsports. Some lawmakers think the benefit is not worth the cost.<br /> <br /> In May, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., increased the stakes when he inserted an amendment into the House fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill that would prohibit the military from sponsoring any motorsports. This includes the Panther Racing IndyCar team, as well as the Guard's NASCAR team, which is owned by Hendricks Motorsports and features driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.<br /> <br /> Despite the rhetoric, Barnes says his team is still focused on supporting the Guard in every way it can.<br /> <br /> Representing the Guard seems to be the most enjoyable part of Barnes' job. And that passion is evident throughout his race shop.<br /> <br /> While he meets with Guardsmen at every race, so do his pit crews, driver J. R. Hildebrand and the Panther staff. They all give time to Guardsmen each race weekend.<br /> <br /> "Everybody on our team-everyone- feels like they are in the National Guard," says Barnes. "And I hope that everyone in the National Guard feels like they are part of our team."<br /> <br /> Contact Andrew Waldman at 202-408-5892 or andrew.waldman@ngaus.org.

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