Even though J.R. Hildebrand was surely heartbroken after last Sunday’s disappointing finish in the 100th Indy 500, he was back to work on Friday. He has shown steady improvement every race in this his rookie year and it would not be a surprise to see him in victory lane before the end of the season. Here is some news from his team on his latest test session.
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – (June 3, 2011) – JR Hildebrand, the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and runner-up in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, returned to the cockpit of his No. 4 NationalGuard Panther Racing machine during a one-day test at the Milwaukee Mile on Friday. The 23-year-old rookie, who has burst onto the open-wheel racing scene after the dramatics surrounding his last-lap crash at Indy last Sunday, spent Friday at the challenging flat one-mile oval for the first time in an IndyCar and turned a total of 99 laps.
The team conducted its first test with Hildebrand in December of 2010 at another difficult one-mile short track oval, Phoenix International Raceway.
Hildebrand currently ranks eighth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings and leads fellow rookie James Hinchcliffe by 33 points in the chase for the series Rookie of the Year. In his five starts with Panther this season he has collected two Top Ten and one Top Five finish. Last weekend at Indianapolis he led the race on three separate occasions for a total of seven laps, his first career laps led as an IndyCar Series competitor.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is off this weekend before traveling to Texas Motor Speedway next Saturday night for the Firestone Twin 275s, a pair of exciting races on the high-banked 1.5-mile oval. Panther Racing has collected a total of five victories at Texas with three different drivers.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
“For everybody at Panther Racing it was refreshing to focus on something different and Milwaukee and Indy are so different it was nice to be in a new situation and start moving forward. It’s been a couple years since I’ve ran here in anything, but we rolled out and were up to speed right away. We got settled in pretty quick and from there it was just all of us trying to make progress on the day. There were a lot of things I was picking up on as we worked through the day. It’s a different place, but having ran two days in Phoenix in December prepared me for running at Milwaukee even though those two tracks are very different. I got a good feel for short oval racing those two days at Phoenix and that served me really well today.”
“Indianapolis was a big sigh or relief for all of us because now we know we can do this right and be competitive. And we’re definitely taking that with us as we move forward. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year the tracks were we’d be strong I would have told you Indy, Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa. But then from an attitude perspective, for me it will make for less pressure on all of us going back to road courses because we’ve shown we can do this and that simplifies the process and helps you get back to basics.”
– Panther Racing, Press Release