Early Contact with EJ Viso Puts Hildebrand, Panther in 25th at Mid-Ohio
National Guard Panther Racing Team Remains in 10th Position in the IZOD IndyCar Series Point Standings
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 7, 2011) – Panther Racing’s best weekend at a non-oval track this season ended in disappointment after National Guard driver JR Hildebrand had contact with EJ Viso early in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio that relegated the team to a 25th-place finish. Despite the result, Hildebrand remains in the tenth position in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship and maintains a solid 37-point lead in the Rookie of the Year standings over second-place James Hinchcliffe.
Hildebrand had qualified 13th for the event, his career-best on a non-oval course, and for the first time in his career was returning to a track where he had a previous IZOD IndyCar Series start. As the race began,Hildebrand held strong in 13th position, pressuring Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves for a majority of the first stint, before the teampitted during a full-course yellow on Lap 23. The Panther crew was able to pick up three spots during the stop and Hildebrand was moving forward during a restart on Lap 27 until Viso made contact with the No. 4 car from behind inTurn Nine, causing JR to get sideways, at which point Castroneves also madecontact with the Panther car.
JR had to pit immediately for a new front wing and to replace a cutFirestone tire, and then return to the pits another lap later to repair damage to one of the car’s rear-wing end fences. The two extra stops and repairs caused Panther to lose a total of four laps, and with little or no attrition, Hildebrand was able to finish the race but not make any significant progress up the grid.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda: “The National Guard car was so good today, which is what makes (the incident) so disappointing. Even after we had contact, we had the thing all out of whack and we’re still running nearly leader pace for a majority of the race. So in the end, that’s the most frustrating thing. We had an awesome pit stop before the first restart; we got out ahead of Helio and Bourdais and we had their pace so we were confident that we were going to be able to stay ahead of those guys. On the restart it bottled up in Turn Nine and I got hit in what felt like the right-rear and got spunsideways and then somebody else came up the inside and collected the front of the car. I kept the car going straight, but obviously it was all screwed up at that point. We had to sit in the pits for a few green flag laps, and the guys did a phenomenal job getting the car put back together so we could get backout. And that’s where the frustration comes in, because even after that we had a really fast racecar. It’s an encouraging weekend overall. We’ve been getting it together all weekend and the car was getting better every session, and that definitely keeps our hopes high heading to Sonoma in a couple weeks.”