Hildebrand Qualifies 16th in Long Beach, Expected to Start 20th Following Engine Change Penalty
National Guard Panther Racing Driver Improved 10 Positions in First Long Beach Start in 2011

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

Photo by: Bob Heathcote

LONG BEACH, Calif. - (April 14, 2012) – With nearly half the IZOD IndyCar Series field docked with 10-spot grid penalties for making unapproved engine changes, Saturday’s qualifications for the Grand Prix of Long Beach provided little clarity as to Sunday’s starting lineup. National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand officially qualified in the 16th position, but the team will be penalized after it changed its Chevrolet power plant on Thursday, and it is believed the Californian will start in the 20th position for tomorrow’s 85-lap race.

IndyCar will release the official starting order following tomorrow morning’s warm-up practice session, in the event any more engines are changed between now and the start of the race.

Hildebrand white-walled his No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet during his qualification run, but was still able to finish eighth overall in his group with a top lap of 100.666 mph, 1:10.3794 seconds, as there was minimal damage to the car. Hildebrand started 27th here last year and improved a total of 10 positions before finishing in the 17th position, after having to pit on two occasions late in the race for a tire puncture.

QUOTABLE: JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet: "I kind of screwed that up in qualifying, I hit the wall on the first lap in qualifying and then hit it again in the same place on the last lap. So I added insult to injury. On the first lap that I hit the wall I had been three-and-a-half or four tenths up on that lap, so that was a major drag. We’ve made some improvements already this weekend and we were able to get through the field pretty well here last year and the National Guard Chevy is definitelyworking a lot better for us this year. The Panther guys have been working hard and we’ll be looking forward to powering our way up through the fieldtomorrow.”