Carb Day Tune-Up Has Spirits High with Panther’s Hildebrand, Rice
Panther Tandem Finish Strong on Final Day of Practice for 95th Running of the Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A strong month of practice and qualifications concluded for Panther Racing drivers JR Hildebrand and Buddy Rice during Carburation Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the team’s duo posted practice speeds inside top 11 of the 33 competitors who took laps. Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 winner, finished sixth overall on the speed chart for the day with a top speed of 224.209 mph withfastest rookie qualifier Hildebrand finishing 11th with a top lap of 223.830 mph.
Panther has finished runner-up in the Indianapolis 500 in each of the last three seasons; 2008 with Vitor Meira and 2009-2010 with former Indy winner Dan Wheldon.
Everything’s going well from our perspective.
Rice turned a total of 44 laps in his No. 44 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry and Hildebrand circled the historic 2.5-mile Speedway 48 times in his National Guard sponsored entry.
Rice will be making his sixth start in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and will be starting in the seventh position, his best start since he was the polesitter in the 2004 event. He finished eighth-place in his last start at Indianapolis, in 2008 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. He has led the race in two of his five starts for a total of 99 laps. Sunday will mark his first start with Panther Racing, making him the third former Indianapolis 500 winner to drive for the team – joining Buddy Lazier (1996) and Dan Wheldon (2005). Sam Hornish Jr. made three starts at Indy for Panther but won the ‘500’ for Team Penske three years after he left the team.
Hildebrand will be making his first start in the Indianapolis 500 after making two starts at Indianapolis in the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race. He finished second in the Freedom 100 in 2009, the same year he captured the series championship. Hildebrand is the fastest rookie in the field after qualifying with a four-lap average of 225.579 mph and is the current leader in the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year standings.
There are a total of nine drivers in the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 field who have driven for Panther Racing; Hildebrand, Rice, Dan Wheldon (2002, 2009-2010), Vitor Meira (2006-2008), Townsend Bell (2004, 2005), Tomas Scheckter (2004-2005), Ed Carpenter (2010), John Andretti (2007) and Pippa Mann (Indy Lights, 2009).
The 95th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will be broadcast live on ABC on Sunday, May 29th at 12:00 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, www.indycar.com, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
"Everything’s going well from our perspective. The car felt really good today and it was important for me as a rookie to get out there and run in traffic a little bit. The entire month has gone really well in the National Guard car and it’s been such a huge help for myself personally, but also for the team, to have Buddy Rice around. We feel good going into raceday and I know everybody here is pumped for Sunday to get here.”
Buddy Rice, No. 44 Panther Racing Dallara Honda:
"It’s all good. I just have to thank John Barnes and everybody at Panther Racing for giving me this opportunity, and having Fuzzy’s Vodka come on board when they did has been a big help to our program. Panther has a great oval program and their history here at Indianapolis speaks for itself so we feel really good about how the entire month has gone.”