Panther Racing press release
Hildebrand’s California Homecoming Highlights Infineon Race for Panther
IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of Year Returns Home to Track Where His Racing Career Began
SONOMA, Calif. (August 25, 2011) – It’s been a long time since National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand began his racing career in the Jim Russell Racing School at Infineon Raceway, but the 23-year-old IZOD IndyCarRookie of the Year points leader returns to his home track this weekend behind the wheel of Panther’s No. 4 entry. The series opened its first day of practice on Friday afternoon, with Hildebrand turning a total of 18 laps and posted a top speed of 102.684 mph, 1:20.7411 seconds – which was good for the 19th position on the charts.
Infineon Raceway has been a staple in Hildebrand’s accent to the top level of American open-wheel racing, and the Sausalito native was victorious in the Firestone Indy Lights race there in 2009, a win that effectively secured his championship crown that season.
A busy week for Hildebrand promoting the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma included a stop at the San Francisco 49ers nearby practice facility to meetwith Panther team co-owner, and 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh – who hosted Hildebrand during a day of practice on Wednesday. On Thursday, Hildebrand had the opportunity to go on the field at AT&T Ballpark, home of his beloved San Francisco Giants, and met players Brandon Belt, Javier Lopez and manager Bruce Bochy prior to their game with the San Diego Padres.
Hildebrand made his second career IndyCar Series start at Infineon last year with Dreyer & Reinbold and JR started in the 19th position and set the fastest lap of the race. Contact with Marco Andretti while Hildebrand was fighting for a Top Five position on the grid ultimately ended his IndyCar home debut prematurely, forcing him into a 21st-place finish, but that experience will be vital as he leads Panther into what should be an exciting weekend of racing on the 12-turn, 2.303-mile course.