National Guard Panther Racing Team Prepares to Open IZOD IndyCar Series Season
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – (March 25, 2011) – The IZOD IndyCar Series season officially kicked off Friday on the Streets of St. Petersburg as the 2011 field took to the exciting 14-turn, 1.8-mile course on a sunny afternoon. National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand made his debut in the No. 4 car, and posted a quick lap speed of 99.614 mph, 1:05.0510 seconds which was good enough for 22nd position on the final speed chart for the day.
Hildebrand completed a total of 53 laps during the day’s two practice sessions, which was tops amongst the 25 drivers who registered laps on the day. The Californian was third amongst the five rookies in the field. During his Firestone Indy Lights career, Hildebrand made four starts in St. Pete, collecting a pole position(2009, Race 1) and three Top Five finishes in addition to leading a total of 22 laps.
There will be another practice session tomorrow and the three-round knockout qualification will be held tomorrow afternoon to determine the starting field for Sunday’s race.
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.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
“We got caught up in traffic when we were at our best there at the end, and for sure there is a lot more in the National Guard car. But more than anything by the end of the second session we got a little bit more of a handle on where we really need to go. We made some good changes in between the first and second session and where the fast guys picked up a half a second we picked up a full second. There’s more to go and we’ve figured out where that is, and the direction we want to go should help in getting more out of our new tires and in a variety of areas. It’s certainly a competitive field but I have no doubts that once we’re firing on all cylinders we’ll be up with the quick guys.”