Knee Injury No Hiccup for Hildebrand, Panther Heading to Texas
National Guard Panther Racing Rookie Set for His First Start on High-Banks of Texas Motor Speedway
National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand sustained a injury to his left knee during a fitness promotion at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday, but it will have no impact on the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year’s participation in this weekend’s Firestone Twin 275s. Hildebrand injured the knee as he jumped over a hurdle on an obstacle course during a media event which featured fellow IZOD IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe and was overseen by four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Michael Johnson.
Panther Racing has won a total of five times on the high-banked 1.5-mile Texas oval, most recently with Tomas Scheckter in 2005. The team has finished inside the Top Ten at Texas in six consecutive seasons in the team’s No. 4 entry. Last season former Panther driver Dan Wheldon finished in the ninth position. This will be Hildebrand’s first start at the track.
Hildebrand is coming off a thrilling runner-up finish in the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, where the rookie driver led the race on three occasions for a total of seven laps. Healso secured Panther’s fourth-consecutive runner-up finish, joining the likes of Vitor Meira (2008) and Dan Wheldon (2009-2010) by finishing second for Panther in the National Guard car.
Buddy Rice has traveled to Texas as a driver alternate in the event if there are any issues preventing Hildebrand from competing this weekend, which is highly unlikely. Rice made his first startwith Panther Racing last month in the Indianapolis 500, where he started in the seventh position and finished 18th in the No. 44 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry.
The team will not be releasing further details on Hildebrand’s injury at this time.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
(On the knee injury) "Obviously it’s a hassle but I’ve got good means of dealing with it this weekend and it’s not going to be an issue down the road. This kind of stuff happens to lots of athletes, and I’m sure if I was a running back for the Indianapolis Colts I’d be having some problems, but luckily it’s not going to have any affect on me driving the racecar.
(On the race) “I think the Texas race is going to be fun. Obviously I’ve watched the IZOD IndyCar Series races here for a long time and it’s always good and exciting racing. And Panther brings a good package here every year and I think the two-race format is going to be pretty cool. I’m not sure what to make of it honestly in terms of how aggressive everybody will be going into it. This is the perfect type of track to have a more random grid like what you’ll see in the second race and that will make for better racing because here you can pass and use the high line to get aroundpeople.”
-source; panther racing