INDIANAPOLIS - As Panther Racing prepares for the upcoming season, all eyes are also focused on the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is part owner of Panther, and photos of him are displayed prominently.
Harbaugh has been involved with Panther since 1994, when co-owner John Barnes approached Harbaugh about the opportunity to join the team, fresh off Harbaugh's first trip to the Indianapolis 500, watching from the pits.
"I still believe it's the single greatest moment in a sporting event that I've ever been a fan at or watched, observed -- the start of the Indy 500," Harbaugh said.
"He's just incredible and infectious to be around," Barnes said. "He is the most competitive human being I've ever met. I'll put that against Mario (Andretti), Al Unser, (A.J) Foyt, Parnelli (Jones). Jim Harbaugh is as competitive or more competitive than any of those guys."
Last fall, Panther honored Harbaugh with a San Francisco 49ers-themed car at the IndyCar race in Sonoma, Calif., complete with a 49ers fire suit for driver J.R. Hildebrand.
"The suit that I had, I thought it was going to be the dumbest, hokiest, gimmicky thing ever," Hildebrand said. "It was the most rad suit I wore all year."
Success "suits" both Harbaugh and Panther Racing, with the unique goal of a couple of championships this year in IndyCar and in the NFL, playing off the same drive.
"I've learned a lot, too, from the team dynamic at Panther Racing and John Barnes as a leader," Harbaugh said.
"He has influenced us greatly here -- the way that we do things from day one, the attitude we take and the way we accomplish things," Barnes said.