JR Hildebrand at the Indianapolis 500 - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
After a stellar rookie year with Panther Racing, the John Barnes-led Indy car team decided to take up their two-year option.
Hildebrand, the 23-year-old Sausalito, CA native continues to pilot the No. 4 National Guard entry, in part thanks to a second-place result in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 and Rookie of the Year results under his belt. He led three Indy car races, recorded two Top-5 and five Top-10 results over the year.
"We're happy that we're able to keep JR in the No. 4 car for the next two years, Panther managing partner Barnes said. "We signed him last year with every intention that he would be in the No. 4 car for the foreseeable future. He proved--both inside and outside the race car--that he was a perfect fit for this team and what we represent."
Just one week after his runner-up finish at Indy--where he led until the final turn and crashed--JR tore the ACL on his left knee during a media event prior to the Twin 275's at Texas Motor Speedway. He recorded his best career qualifying effort at Iowa Speedway just two weeks after sustaining this injury, of fourth. He led that race and eventually finished fourth.
Hildebrand had surgery on his knee after the season ended.
"I'm super stoked that I'm going to be back at Panther for the next two years," he said. "I worked really well with my engineer David Cripps this season--and I know everybody at Panther is excited about getting started on next year and especially looking forward to getting back o the Indianapolis 500 so we can avenge our battlescar."
Hildebrand is scheduled to test his the new 2012 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone test car in early December, his first opportunity to drive the car.
© 2011 Anne Proffit