One night last winter, after a long day at the office, Mike Kitchel was surfing the Web on his laptop computer when he saw something familiar. There, on a Web site listing items intended for a planned auction of Panther Racing equipment, was a photo of the laptop he was using at that very moment. "I'm looking at my laptop through my laptop," said Kitchel, the team's public relations director. "Not only that, but there was my desk, my chair, my filing cabinet - everything in my office was tagged for sale.
"Even the coffeemaker."
The items up for bid weren't just Kitchel's. Almost every piece of equipment at Panther headquarters in Indianapolis was about to be auctioned off in a last-ditch effort to keep the team afloat. Or, worse yet, to pay off the remaining debts and close the doors. Already, the team had auctioned off the Dallara that Sam Hornish Jr. had driven to IRL championships in 2001 and 2002. Just 10 staffers remained, down from a crew of 62 a few months earlier. If this were a movie, the credits would be about to roll, the crowd about to file out.