Rice, Hildebrand Look to Keep Panther’s Kentucky Streak Alive
Buddy Rice set to join Panther’s JR Hildebrand for the Last Two IZOD IndyCar Series Races
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 30, 2011) – A year ago at Kentucky Speedway, Panther Racing recorded its only double-podium in team history with former drivers Dan Wheldon (3rd) and Ed Carpenter (2nd) and will be looking for similar results with weekend with its 2011 tandem of Buddy Rice and JR Hildebrand. After a number of road and street course races, the Kentucky oval’s wide racing surface, sweeping turns and 14-degrees of banking will present a unique challenge for the drivers and is sure to provide some exciting racing for fans.
Last year Carpenter captured his first career PEAK Pole Award in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry, which at the time was Panther’s first pole in nearly five seasons. Carpenter led a total of 11 laps in the event as former National Guard driver Dan Wheldon led a race-high 93 laps and dominated before having to pit for fuel with just a few laps remaining in the race. Helio Castroneves, who had run no higher than seventh at any point earlier in the race, conserved fuel the entire last stint to steal the victory from Panther’s duo.
After a career best road course finish of 7th in Japan, National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand is now 13th in the overall IZOD IndyCar Series points standings, and 14 points ahead ofJames Hinchcliffe in the Rookie of the Year standings. Hildebrand has enjoyed some success at the Kentucky Speedway in the past, earning pole in the Firestone Indy Lights race in 2009, and is looking forward to keeping his hot streak alive at the upcoming race.
Hildebrand will be joined by Indy 500 teammate Buddy Rice, who returns for the last two races of the season in the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka No. 44 car. Rice finished 2nd at the Kentucky Speedway in 2004, and finished 10th there is his last full season in 2008.
Panther Racing has had successful races at the Kentucky Speedway in the past, with driver Sam Hornish Jr. taking first in 2003. Last year, Panther teammates Ed Carpenter and Dan Wheldon finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, and Hildebrand and Rice are looking forward to trying to improve the team’s record at the track.
In addition to the adding a second car, Panther Racing will also be unveiling a new livery for the No. 4 National Guard car at the Kentucky Speedway. The No. 4 car will have a new pink camouflage scheme for the entire month of October to recognize and honor women who currently serve in the United States military, as well as our nation’s female veterans. In addition to the new livery, Panther will also be offering limited edition No. 4 pink camouflage t-shirts that will be available online at www.pantherracinggear.com while supplies last.
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: “It’s encouraging for both of us that Panther has had so much success at KentuckySpeedway in the past. Of the mile-and-half ovals that we go to, Kentucky has a lot more little things about it that make both ends here really unique. It’s got a lot of character for an oval track, for sure. I’m definitely looking forward to having Buddy (Rice) back out here with the Panther boys and with his experience we should only be stronger on the track this weekend.”
Buddy Rice, No. 44 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Dallara Honda: “I’m happy to be back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car and with Panther with JR (Hildebrand) as a teammate. Kentucky’s always been a handling track and it will especially be the case this year with the diamond grinding they’ve done to the racetrack here. And with so many people here the lapped traffic will be a big part of the race, but being with Panther and their strength on oval tracks I feel like we’re going to be in a strong position this weekend. We had a good run at Indianapolis and hopefully we can expand upon that and have both cars up front this weekend.”