National Guard Panther Driver Looks to Finish Season Off Strong in Saturday’s IndyCar Finale

FONTANA, Calif. (September 14, 2012) – National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand will start a season-best fourth place for tomorrow’s MAV-TV American Real 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The qualification effort is one position better than Panther’s previous best starting position of the year, a fifth-place start at Barber Motorsports Park. Panther has captured two race victories previously on the two-mile oval, in 2002 and 2003 with former driver Sam Hornish Jr.

“It was a pretty good run in the National Guard Chevy,” Hildebrand said. “We took a little bit of a different strategy here in qualifying. It was good for us to work on some things out there. The car was good. The biggest problem I had was with the bumps down the back straight. Our gearing was a little high, and I just got stuck in the rev limiter for a long time because it was so bumpy. So that brought our speed down a little bit.”

Hildebrand posted lap speeds of 214.681 and 214.818 mph, for a combined two-lap average of 214.749 mph. His qualification speed was eighth-best amongst the 26 drivers who posted times during qualifications, but because of several 10-spot grid penalties for unapproved engine changes, the National Guard Panther team was moved to its second-row starting spot.

“With some of the grid penalties and that kind of stuff, we will move up to fourth on the grid tomorrow, so we are looking pretty good right now,” JR concluded. “The first couple hours when the sun is going down is actually when it is going to be the toughest (tomorrow).”

During the day’s final practice session, Hildebrand posted the seventh-quickest time overall and executed several high-line passes that left the team confident for tomorrow’s 500-mile race.

Race Broadcast Details:
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. - -