Buddy Rice, Fuzzy's Vodka Rejoin Panther for Kentucky, Las Vegas
2004 Indy 500 Winner Returns to Panther in No. 44 to Pilot “Fastest Golf Ball in the World”
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 7, 2010) – Panther Racing announced today that Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka and former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will return to the team in the No. 44 entry for upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series events at Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Rice ended a two-plus year IndyCar hiatus to make his first career start for Panther in this season’s 100th Anniversary Running of the Indianapolis 500, where he qualified in the seventh position and finished 18th. He will team with current National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand, the current IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year leader, who had originally lobbied for Panther to sign Rice prior to this year’s Indianapolis 500.
Both Rice and Hildebrand will be available on an INDYCAR teleconference tomorrow (Thursday) at 2:00 (EDT), and interested media can call into the teleconference at 866-475-2663, and enter passcode INDYCAR, or 6674241.
“Everybody at Panther is extremely excited to have Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka and a champion like Buddy Rice back with us for the last two races of the season,” Panther Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. “Those guys bring so much to this team and we owe Buddy and Fuzzy’s Vodka a ton of credit for the success we had this year at Indianapolis, and we feel we’ve put together a race-winning package for both Kentucky and Las Vegas. Buddy worked so well with JR (Hildebrand) in May and I’m glad they’ll get the opportunity to work together again because I can’t ever remember a pair of teammates working together as well as those two did at Indianapolis.”
Fuzzy Zoeller, winner of 12 tour victories on the PGA and Champions Tour added, “We’re looking forward to partnering Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka with Panther Racing again and having Buddy tee it up at Kentucky and Las Vegas. I can drive a golf ball, but Buddy can drive the hell out an IndyCar. I’m looking forward to watching the “Fastest Golf Ball in the World” on the track. We’ve had some great runs over the past few years with the IZOD IndyCar Series and we’re looking to hit a Hole-In-One this time around.”
Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 and 2009 Rolex 24 of Daytona champion, is one of the IndyCar Series most popular drivers and the Phoenix native has captured a total of three IndyCar victories in his career and has made a total of 98 career IndyCar Series starts. He finished a career-high third in the series championship in 2004 while driving for Rahal-Letterman Racing. Rice and Hildebrand had a strong relationship during the month of May leading up to this season’s Indianapolis 500, helping Rice earn a spot in the coveted top nine shootout and ultimately assisting Hildebrand on his way to a stunning runner-up finish and Rookie of the Yearhonors.
“I’m just excited to be back at Panther Racing and thankful that Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka has made it possible for us to run some more races together,” Rice said. “Like I said before we ran Indianapolis; I’ve had a lot of chances to get back into IndyCar, but at Panther we know we’ve got a package together that can win races. I know Panther was really strong at Kentucky last year and they’ve got one of the best oval programs in the series, so I know JR and I can work together to get these cars towards the front. I’m thankful to John Barnes and Fuzzy’s Vodka for giving me this opportunity and I’m excited to get back out there.”
Fuzzy’s Vodka originally partnered with Panther in 2010 as the primary sponsor on Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 entry in the Indianapolis 500, and later for additional races at Chicagoland Speedway, Kentucky and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Carpenter captured the pole position at Kentucky last year in Fuzzy’s livery, securing the first pole Panther had earned in five seasons. Carpenter and former driver Dan Wheldon finished second and third, respectively, in that event – the first time in team history Panther has had teammates finish on the podium together.