J.R. Hildebrand from Sausalito Qualifies 22nd in Brazil

J.R. Hildebrand from Sausalito, CA driver of the Panther Racing No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda.
J.R. Hildebrand from Sausalito, CA driver of the #4 Panther Racing Indy car.

SAO PAULO, Brazil – (April 30, 2011) – Panther Racing and IZOD IndyCar Series rookie driver J.R. Hildebrand qualified in the 22nd position Saturday afternoon on the Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil for tomorrow’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle. Hildebrand had finished in seventh position it the practice session preceding qualifications but the team was unable to advance into the second round of knockout qualifications and will start in the 11th Row alongside local favorite Tony Kanaan.

Hildebrand posted a best speed of 108.888 mph, 1:23.8443 seconds, which was actually faster than Kanaan’s speed of 108.401 mph but the rookie starts behind TK because the drivers were in separate groups during the first round of qualifications.

In 2010, with former driver Dan Wheldon, Panther started in the 18th position but was unable to overcome its starting position, and a broken front wing during the race, to finish in fifth position in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 11-turn, 2.6-mile temporary street circuit. Hildebrand has shown the same ability to move to the front of the field; in St. Pete he climbed from 24th-to -11th, advanced from 15th-to-13th at Barber after initially falling a lap down and back to 25th, and moved up from 27th-to-17th in the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

He has completed all of the possible 275 laps of IndyCar competition this season, one of only seven drivers (Kannan, Franchitti, Power, Meira, Tagliani and Servia) to do so through the first three races of the season – and the only rookie. Hildebrand is the current leader of the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year point standings. Sunday will mark his sixth career IndyCar Series start, as the 23-year-old Californian made two starts with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2010 in addition to his three races this season with Panther.

Team Penske driver Will Power captured his fourth consecutive pole position and will be joined on the front row by Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle will be broadcast live on VERSUS on Sunday, May 1st at 12:00 pm (EST) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 145 and Sirius Channel 121.

JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda, had this to say:

“We definitely know that the National Guard car is really good, and we were able to make good of it in the second practice but then we were going so much quicker from second practice to qualifications that it put me in a little bit of a bind with the gearing in the car because I was going so much faster through the corners that I was having to reconfigure the gears that I was running this morning. I’m disappointed; we were in a tough group but I feel like I could have gotten a couple more tenths out of the car and, even being in the group that we were in, I felt like after the second practice that we’d have a shot to advance to the Top 12. Like I said, the car is going to be really good tomorrow and I’m bummed about starting in the back, but it does leave us some options as far as strategy in the race.”

Panther Racing, Press Release

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