The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, JR Hildebrand, was announced today as the driver for the #4 National Guard car for Panther Racing. This comes after a testing session at the Phoenix International Raceway where JR impressed the team, and Al Unser Jr. Some of you may remember my overly exuberant reaction to Little Al’s tweet from Phoenix. Well, although I might have been a bit premature, it looks like my faith in Al’s nature to tell it like it is wasn’t misplaced.
no images were found“I couldn’t be more excited to be at Panther Racing and a part of the National Guard. This is my first full-time IndyCar ride and the Panther No. 4 car is one of the best seats in the IZOD IndyCar Series, so to be able to start my career with a team with this kind of pedigree is just huge. I already feel with the small amount of experiences I’ve had here, and just being around the shop, that it’s going to be a great fit for all of us. I’m more than honored to be in a position to represent the National Guard, and I’ve already got a small taste of all the programs I’ll be a part of through this sponsorship, and I just couldn’t be more excited to get more involved in everything that goes along with this partnership. I’m certainly excited about this opportunity and I’m definitely looking forward to every piece of this program moving forward.” — JR Hildebrand, from Panther Racing release.
Although this really isn’t a surprise to us, nor many others, it is very nice to see the official confirmation. The IndyCar fandom have clamored for the past few years that there needs to be more American drivers in the series, and that there needs to be more interest from the teams in the Firestone Indy Lights drivers. This, of course, kills two birds with one stone. JR “Captain America” Hildebrand is a Californian and comes to the series not with a money bags full of cash from a sponsor, but with truckloads of talent! He started his winning ways, as most young open-wheel talent does today, in racing karts back in 2002 where he took the championship in his first year of competition. Hildebrand also scored championships in the SCCA Formula Russell Championship Series in 2004, and the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship in 2006. Good luck in 2011, Captain!