IndyCar – Panther Secures an American Driver

I don’t have much in the way of details here, but I was so excited that I couldn’t wait. Al Unser, Jr., announced the good news via twitter this evening that the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, J.R. Hildebrand, will be piloting the #4 National Guard car for Panther Racing.

Hi Everyone! JR Hildebrand is in the car for Panther. He tested all day and did a GREAT JOB! He is going to be one too watch in 2011!!! — Al Unser, Jr. via Twitter.

This is fantastic! Ever since the National Guard sponsorship came to Panther Racing in 2008, there was a complaint that they should have an American driver in the cockpit. Panther first ran Vitor Meira for a year until they hired Dan Wheldon in 2009. Although many were annoyed that a “Brit” was driving the car, I don’t thing that ANYONE can legitimately say that Wheldon didn’t give 110% of his effort and respect to the team and sponsor. I’m extremely happy with how Dan worked to help the National Guard and how respectful he was of the National Guard and our service men and women. That’s not to say that having an American in the cockpit isn’t a huge plus. I’m very excited that the rumor we’ve been hearing for some time is finally starting to take more solid form. Granted this is only a mention via twitter, but coming from Little Al, I’m going to take it as a pretty solid source. We’ll share more details as they become available.

UPDATE:

Well, looks like the ink isn’t quite dry…

Very productive test in the No. 4 car today at Phoenix with JR Hildebrand. To clarify, we have no agreement in place for 2011. #indycar — @PantherRacing

I’m down at PIR testing with @PantherRacing, had a really solid day. Nothing set for next year, pretty excited just to be back in a car! — @JRHildebrand

Well, you can’t blame us for being excited anyway. šŸ™‚

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7 Thoughts to “IndyCar – Panther Secures an American Driver

  1. Well J.R. just said on his twitter feed, “@JRHildebrand I’m down at PIR testing with @PantherRacing, had a really solid day. Nothing set for next year, pretty excited just to be back in a car! ”

    So today is a tryout of sorts.

    Also PIR? Phoenix?

  2. Nothing set for next year YET. šŸ™‚ Forgive me for being hopeful.

  3. Well considering the flack over basically tax dollars going to a non-American last season. I doubt anyone else is getting this ride. Most thought it would be Ed, and well we saw what happened there.

    Consider this a bailout or stimulus for young American racers. lol

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  5. I know there was a lot of people annoyed by the fact that non-Americans have been in that seat, but Dan Wheldon worked really hard to serve the team and the National Guard well. I think he did a great job in that respect.

  6. Dan did more promotions for the Guard than Americans Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon,and Jimmy Johnson combined. (Who all were sponsored in the guard one way or another.)

  7. This is great news if JR lands the ride, but I can’t see what is taking Panther so long to make up their minds. I’m not sure who else they could hire that would be as good a fit as JR Hildebrand? I can’t think of any other Americans ready to make the jump to the main series. I heard that DRR was campaigning at the tweetup to get JR in one of their cars. Panther needs to lock him up or they might lose him.

    I hate seeing Dan lose his ride. He was a great spokesman for the Guard even if he wasn’t American. I’m hoping he ends up somewhere like DRR or KV. Would be a step up for both in driving talent even if he’s an oval specialist.

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