The Hildebrand File
JR Hildebrand, the most talented young American driver in open-wheel racing, has joined forces with Panther Racing, the two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and runner-up in the last three Indianapolis 500s, to drive the team’s No. 4 National Guard entry for the foreseeable future. Hildebrand passed on an opportunity to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to pursue a career in motorsports, and since graduating from high school as a National Merit Scholar, he’s skyrocketed up the open-wheel racing ladder; quickly moving from karts to the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 championship, to a seventh-place finish in the Toyota Atlantic Championship and then to Firestone Indy Lights, where he captured his first career victory at Kansas Speedway in 2008 in his second ever start on an oval track. The following year he dominated in Indy Lights, capturing four victories and six poles en route to a decisive championship crown. The following year he made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, making his first start at Mid-Ohio and later at Infineon Raceway, within the shadows of his hometown, where he ran as high as fourth and set the fastest lap of the race.
With immense on-track talent and maturity well beyond his 22-years, Hildebrand quickly rose to the top of Panther’s list of driver candidates at the end of the 2010 season. A two-day test in December of 2010 at the challenging Phoenix International Raceway under the watchful eye of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. was more than enough to convince Panther team owner John Barnes that the young Californian was the next pilot to take over the reins of the No. 4 National Guard entry, following in the footsteps of other Panther drivers like Scott Goodyear, Sam Hornish Jr., Tomas Scheckter, Vitor Meira and Dan Wheldon.
Year-by-Year Career Highlights
• Voted Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing runner-up in dramatic fashion during the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.
• Led at Iowa Speedway before finishing in fourth position, his best finish outside of the Indy 500, and a best road-course finish of seventh at Twin Ring Motegi, during his rookie campaign.
• Overcame a torn ACL in this left knee and a broken bone in his hand to conclude the sesaon with a total of five Top Ten and two Top Five finishes during his rookie season.
• Led the race at three different tracks during the season - Indianapolis, Iowa and Kentucky Speedway.
• Announced in December that he would join two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing as a replacement to Dan Wheldon in the No. 4 National Guard entry for the 2011 season.
• Made IZOD IndyCar Series debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he qualified in the 18th position and finished 16th on the grid.
• Started at his hometown track at Infineon Raceway, where he ran as high as fourth place and set the fastest lap of the race before making contact with Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti.
• Captured Firestone Indy Lights Championship with AFS/Andretti Green Racing with a total of four wins, six poles, 11 Top Five and 12 Top Ten finishes.
• Tested Andretti-Green Racing IndyCar Series car at both Kansas Speedway and the Sebring International Raceway short course.
• Debuted in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsports as a replacement for Marco Andretti at Brands Hatch in England. Qualified and finished in the fourth position, and led laps during the sprint race.
• Tested Formula One car for Force India F-1 at Jerez in December.
• Finished fifth overall in Firestone Indy Lights championship with RLR Anderson racing, collecting a total of eight Top Five and 12 Top Ten finishes.
• Captured first career Indy Lights victory at Kansas Speedway in what was just the second oval race of his career.
• Finished seventh overall in the Toyota Atlantic Championship with Newman Wachs Racing, collecting a total of seven Top 10 and two Top Five finishes.
• Was highest placed American rookie in the Atlantic Championship, and recorded a best finish of second place at Cleveland
• Captured Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship, winning a record-setting 12 of 14 races.
• Set series records for consecutive race victories (7), most laps led in a season and most poles in a season en route to the championship crown.
• Finished third overall in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Cup as part of the Team USA Scholarship Program.
• Finished second overall in the Pacific F2000 Series and captured the Rookie of the Year crown with two wins, nine podium and 10 Top Five results in just 12 races.
• Captured SCCA Formula Russell Championship and Rookie of the Year crowns with a total of seven wins, 11 podium, 13 Top Five and 15 Top Ten finishes in his first full year of racing cars.
• Overall winner in the 2003 Jim Russell Graduate Runoffs and second in 2003 Jim Russell Championship Series Jr. 18 – winning three of six races.
• Jim Russell Arrive and Drive Sprint Kart Series Champion.