WILD BALTIMORE GRAND PRIX LEAVES PANTHER, JR HILDEBRAND IN THE 12TH POSITION SUNDAY
Panther Weathers Wet, Dry and Three Front Wings En Route to Finish in Baltimore Race
BALTIMORE, MD (September 3, 2012) – In what turned out to be a wild – and sometimes wet – Grand Prix of Baltimore, National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand finished the day with a 12th-place result. Hildebrand, who missed qualifications because of a practice crash early Saturday, started at the rear of the field but was running as high as third position during the middle portion of the race. Hildebrand was later caught behind a slow car on a restart and then suffered damage to the front wing of his National Guard Chevy that ultimately sent the 24-year-old Californian back down to the middle of the grid.
“It was kind of a bummer of a day,” Hildebrand admitted. “Things just didn't go our way towards the end of the race. We stayed out on slicks when it started to rain and that was definitely the right call. “We got ourselves up into the top five legitimately, but we kind of got hosed on a restart; the pole sitter was kind of just sleeping on the restart and I got stuck behind him and couldn’t find a way around which put us into sixth or seventh.”
Hildebrand started in 23rd position but wasted little time in climbing the grid, despite an avoidable contact penalty when he made contact with Bruno Junqueira during a pile-up on Lap 14. His subsequent drive-through penalty – the first of his IndyCar career – did little to slow Panther’s rise to the front of the grid. The team elected to stick with its slick Firestone tires during what quickly became a tenuous portion of the race, as light rain conditions left several teams debating between staying on slicks or changing to rain tires. Between a series of caution periods Hildebrand passed his way up into the Top Three by Lap 33 just prior to another full-course caution for James Jakes, who stuck his No. 19 car into the tire barrier at Turn 12.
On the Lap 36 restart Hildebrand was stuck behind Takuma Sato, who was slow to take the green flag, allowing several cars to pass both Sato and the National Guard car. After yet another caution period, Hildebrand again damaged his front wing during a stack-up of cars on Lap 42 and had to make a lengthy pit stop for another nose that set the Panther team back to 17th position.
“We were looking to have a really good day and with five laps before we were going to pit, I clipped off the right side of the front wing and that just hosed our day at that point,” JR continued. “I lost a few spots right there because of that, and then having to make the nose change in pit lane cost us an extra fifteen seconds, which at that stage put us behind all the cars we should have been ahead of. I was a little overly aggressive at a couple points during the race and that ended up costing us.”
Hildebrand spent the final stint battling with fellow American Graham Rahal before the race ended with the team in the 12th position.
“The National Guard Chevy guys did an awesome job today, and that’s what makes it so disappointing,” Hildebrand concluded. “We picked the perfect strategy today and because I made a couple mistakes things just didn’t pan out.”
With one race remaining in the 2012 season Panther travels to California Speedway, where in Panther’s history the team has captured two race victories (2002, 2003 with Sam Hornish Jr.) and in 2003 set the closed-course speed record for average speed during a race with an average speed of 207.151 mph. The team last raced at California Speedway in 2005 with Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge in what – at the time – was Chevrolet’s last IndyCar Series race before returning this season. Scheckter led 80 laps in that race before finishing in the seventh position.
Race Broadcast Details:
The IZOD IndyCar Series will have a weekend off before traveling to Fontana, California for the season finale at California Speedway. The MAV-TV American Real 500 will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network on September 15th at 8:30 pm (ET), with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 94 and Sirius Channel 212. Practice, qualifying and race coverage is also available on the new IndyCar Mobile app from Verizon.
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