Hildebrand Qualifies Fifth in Kentucky; Buddy Rice Lands 18th
IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Leader Collects Second Top Five Qualification Effort
SPARTA, KY. (September 30, 2011) – National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand will start fifth for tomorrow’s Kentucky Indy 300 with teammate Buddy Rice slated to start in the 18th position in his No. 44 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry. Panther Racing looks to continue its tradition of success at Kentucky, where the team has collected a victory (2003) and two pole positions (2003, 2010) in addition to six podiums, seven Top Five and 10 Top Ten finishes in its history. Panther drivers have led at Kentucky in nine of their starts, for a total 381 laps.
Hildebrand led the team with lap times of 24.4397 and 24.4698 that combined for a two-lap average speed of 217.872 mph. It will mark the rookie’s second-best career start behind a fourth-place qualification effort at Iowa Speedway earlier this season. Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 winner, will be making his second start for Panther after posting lap times of 24.5804 and 24.5970, which is a two-lap average 216.685 mph.
The IZOD IndyCar Series battle for Rookie of the Year, now led by Hildebrand by 14 points entering the final two races of the season, remains tight with fellow rookie James Hinchcliffe starting in the third position for tomorrow’s 200-lap race. Rice started from the pole at Kentucky in 2004 and finished runner-up and the IndyCar Series veteran is returning to Panther in the Fuzzy’s Vodka entry after debuting for the team earlier this year in the Indianapolis 500.
Last season Panther saw both its drivers finish on the podium, with Ed Carpenter finishing second with former National Guard driver Dan Wheldon finishing third after leading a race-high 93 laps. Carpenter, driving the team’s Fuzzy’s Vodka entry, started the race from the pole last year, the team’s first pole position in nearly five seasons.
The Kentucky Indy 300 will be broadcast live on Versus on Sunday, October 2nd at 2:00pm with additional coverageprovided by the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 and Sirius channel 212.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda: “The National Guard car is really strong and we’re happy to be starting at the front, and we’re definitely going to be in the mix. I’m excited to be out here with Buddy and however we did in qualifying was icing on the cake because we’ve both got such good racecars. We didn’t test here, so we kind of played around during practice just trying to get it right. We feel like we’ve got a really strong racecar, so if I can just keep it up towards the top five or six, we’ll be good.”
Buddy Rice, No. 44 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Dallara Honda: “I’m real happy to be back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car and in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and to be out here for the next two rounds with Panther Racing. We weren’t as fast as we thought we were going to be in qualifying, but it’s tomorrow that really matters and hopefully I can get the Fuzzy’s car up front and to victory lane. Knowing the success that Panther’s had here makes all of us feel good going into the race. It gives you a lot of confidence in the racecar, and we know we have a real good shot to run up front”