FORT WORTH, Texas – (June 10, 2011) – National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand starting position of his young career Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, where the 23-year-old qualified 11th for the first of tomorrow’s Firestone Twin 275s. Hildebrand, who is driving with a stabilizing brace after suffering an injury to his left knee, upped his previous career best of 12th (Indianapolis) and will be making his first career start on the high-banked1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.
The starting positions for the second race tomorrow night will be determined by a random draw.
Hildebrand posted lap speeds of 213.579 mph and 213.337 mph for a combined two-lap average of 213.458 mph. He will start on the inside of the sixth row alongside former Panther driver Vitor Meira. Buddy Rice had been brought in by the team in the event Hildebrand’s knee injury prevented him from racing, but the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner has flown home after Hildebrand was cleared by INDYCAR doctors this morning and had no issues in practice or qualifications.
Hildebrand finished third overall in the final practice of the day with a top speed of 213.82 mph.
Texas Motor Speedway is the one IZOD IndyCar Series mainstay where Panther has had the most success. The team has captured a total of five victories here: Scott Goodyear (1999, 2000); Sam Hornish Jr. (2001, 2002) and Tomas Scheckter (2005). Hornish won from the pole in 2001,much like Scheckter did in 2005, a year in which Panther qualified 1-2 withScheckter and former Panther driver Tomas Enge.
The team has a total of six podiums, nine Top Five and 15 Top Ten finishes at Texas and has led a total of 538 laps. Panther has finished inside the Top Ten in six straight starts on the 1.5-mile oval.
The Firestone Twin 275s will be broadcast live on VERSUS starting at 8:00 pm (ET) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 and Sirius channel 212.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
“We were pretty good. I was trying to get everything I could in the National Guard car because we didn’t work too much on the qualifying setup today in practice. But we’ve got a fast racecar and we’re looking alright going into tomorrow. It’s going to be a little bit of a different gig running the two shorter races tomorrow, but we’ll see what we get when it comes down to raceday. (On the knee injury) It’s fine. I’m not having any trouble getting in and out of the car, so it’s not going to be an issue.”
– Panther Racing, Press Release