PANTHER, HILDEBRAND CONCLUDE OFFSEASON TESTING WITH FULL DAY AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK

IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie Hildebrand Finishes Fifth Offseason Test with Team

LEEDS, Alabama. – (March 14, 2011) – National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand completed his fifth offseason test with Panther Racing Monday at Barber Motorsports Park during the IZOD IndyCar Series open test. With the 2011 season just over a week away from kicking off, the team’s new driver has been busy with a flurry of off-season test days, including trips to Phoenix International Raceway, Sebring International Raceway, Firebird International Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway and now Barber. Hildebrand had tested  an IndyCar at Barber previously last season with Andretti Autosport.

“This has culminated an array of testing we’ve been doing this offseason, and the test at Barber was our first test at a true road course,” Hildebrand said. “I feel like we’re heading into this season with our guns fully loaded and we’ve been fortunate to test at all kinds of different tracks. With a little work here and there I’m confident that we can load into most places and know the type of direction we need to go with the National Guard car.”

Hildebrand’s first test with the team came at the challenging one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway in what was effectively an open tryout with the team. The 23-year-old Californian was so impressive he was immediately signed to a multi-year contract agreement following the test.

“I’m especially pumped about our street course package,” Hildebrand continued. “Most of our test days have helped us understand where we need to go on that type of track. It’s been great working with all the Panther Racing guys and the chemistry amongst all of us is really strong, and I’m just excited about getting the season started.”

Hildebrand will be engineered by longtime open-wheel engineer David Cripps, who spent the 2004-05 seasons with Panther and then returned in 2008 and has helped the team earn three consecutive runner-up finishes in the Indianapolis 500. Cripps has also engineered three Indianapolis 500 “Rookie of the Year” recipients (Christian Fittipaldi, Lyn St. James and Tora Takagi), which bodes well for Panther’s new pilot.

The IZOD IndyCar Series opens its season next Sunday, March 27th on the Streets of St. Petersburg, where Hildebrand will be the first rookie driver of the team’s No. 4 entry, and the first full-time American since Sam Hornish Jr. who drove for the team from 2001-2003. Additional American drivers who have piloted Panther cars include 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier (2005), John Andretti (2007), Townsend Bell (2004, 2005), Billy Boat (2003), Dave Steele (1998) and Robby McGehee (2003).

Hildebrand was the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion and made two IndyCar Series starts last season at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as a replacement for then-injured Mike Conway.

The IZOD IndyCar Series season opener will be held Sunday, March 27 on the Streets of St. Petersburg, with live coverage provided by ABC starting at 12:30 p.m. (ET) and additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 145 and Sirius Channel 121.

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