J.R.Hildebrand positive after Sonoma testing

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National Guard Panther Chevrolet driver Hildebrand tests at hometown track, shows off his new 1962 Coupe DeVille.

Sonoma, CA – It was an interesting balance between vehicles for National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand during a test session at Sonoma Raceway on Wednesday. Hildebrand, set to enter his third year in the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet, spent the bulk of the day testing his IndyCar on the challenging Sonoma Raceway circuit, but it was the car Hildebrand arrived in that was turning heads.

J.R. Hildebrand, Panther Racing
J.R. Hildebrand, Panther Racing

Photo by: Brad Fox

An avid lover of classic cars, Hildebrand rolled into the raceway Wednesday morning in his new toy, a pink 1962 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. The new purchase is a welcome addition to Hildebrand’s garage, which already includes a perfectly pristine 1966 Chevelle SS given to him by Panther Racing team owner John Barnes after Hildebrand was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 2011.

“I’ve always had a thing for early model year Cadillacs, but the 1962 Coupe DeVille has always been the one for me,” Hildebrand said. “It’s 50-plus years old and it’s hard to find one that’s not either a piece of (crap) or completely restored. The guy I bought it from sent me a bunch of pictures and I almost made an offer without seeing it in person.”

Hildebrand had a few of his buddies go check out the car and when the owner told him he was considering other offers, JRdidn’t want to see it slip away.

“I convinced him to let me see it before he made a decision (on the other offers),” JR explained. “It was everything I thought it was, and I decided to pull the trigger and add it to the stable.It’s a little bit of a project, but it’s such a unique car and a lot of fun.”

After showing off his new ride to the team, it was back to the office for Hildebrand and the National Guard crew. Panther did not test at Sebring International Raceway last week, so Wednesday was a good warm-up for the start of the 2013 IndyCar Series season next month. Hildebrand and the team worked closely with Panther Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and driver Oriol Servia during the test session and both teams were positive about the results.

“The main positive I took from the test was how well we worked with the Dreyer & Reinbold guys,” Hildebrand said. “We had a pretty optimistic game plan going into the test and a lot of things we wanted to get through in a day. One of the differences for us this year is we have a lot more pieces that are going to help us put the puzzle together. Having (Technical Director) Tino (Belli) from Andretti definitely is a big help, and having a more efficient relationship with the D&R guys gives us a lot of information at our disposal.”

Hildebrand will have to park the IndyCar until the National Guard team tests again in a few weeks at Barber Motorsports Park (March 12-13), but the 25-year-old now has a pink Cadillac in the garage tohelp him pass the time. And while it’s safe to assume JR won’t be making any more vehicle purchases in the near future, Panther’s driver has a wish list of future additions.

“I’ve always had a short list of cars I’d like to own,” Hildebrand said. “And having the Chevelle has been awesome because it’s super badass and has all the right options to be a pure-bred muscle car. But the next car on my list is a 1967 or 1968 Camaro. My Dad had that racecar when I was a kid. It’s the right size and a good-looking, fun car. For sure that one is next.”

Panther Racing

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Testing report
Tags california, chevrolet, hildebrand, indycar, panther racing, sonoma