San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has a lifelong passion for auto racing, which increased when he was traded from the Chicago Bears to the Indianapolis Colts in 1994 and he was able to attend his first Indianapolis 500. Before his playing career would come to an end, Harbaugh became founding partner of Panther Racing and his influence on the company was felt during a disappointing finish to last year's race, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Panther's driver, J.R. Hildebrand, held a four-second lead entering the final turn, but crashed into the retaining wall and slid to a second place finish.
"We have a thing here called the Harbaugh Rule," Panther Racing CEO John Barnes said. "Forty-eight hours after something good or bad happens, we're on to the next thing. Jim taught me to get over it and get on down the road. Just move on and figure out how you're going to handle the next situation. So, yeah, I followed the Harbaugh Rule last year."
Once a regular in the pit crew, time constraints as a coach have reduced his role with the organization, but he remains a resource for Barnes to lean on.
"I had no idea what impact he would make on me personally and on the team competitively that he did," Barnes said. "Even though he doesn't spend a lot of time with us, I call him all the time and ask him for advice. I think he's one of the greatest coaches in sports."
In today's race, Hildebrand (No. 4, Harbaugh's number for much of his career, including his last three seasons with the Cols) will start on the outside of Row 6 after qualifying 18th with a four-lap average of 223.422 miles per hour.