National Guard Team Ready for IndyCar Series Debut of New DW12 Chassis on St. Pete Streets
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - (March 24, 2012) – National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand will kick-off the 2012 IndyCar Series season tomorrow afternoon from the 18th-place starting position on the Streets of St. Petersburg. Hildebrand, entering his second full-time season in the series, improved a total of 13 positions during his debut with Panther Racing last season on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit, where he finished 11th.
Hildebrand was eliminated from the first round of qualifications, after finishing ninth overall in this group with a top lap speed of 103.775 mph, 62.4446 seconds. He will start in the ninth row alongside IndyCar veteran Alex Tagliani for tomorrow’s 100-lap event.
“Our pace all weekend has been quite good,” Hildebrand explained. “I think maybe we got caught out a little bit maybe expecting too much from the (Firestone Alternate) red tires. We were obviously just a couple tenths away from transferring to the next round there. It’s frustrating because one of our main goals this year is to improve our road and street qualifying program and we felt like we were doing that here, but as I said, we’ve practiced really well and should have a good National Guard Chevy for tomorrow.”
Panther Qualification History in St. Petersburg:
Sunday will mark Panther’s eighth season of competition on the Streets of St. Petersburg and the second season that Hildebrand will pilot the No. 4 National Guard entry. The team’s best starting position came in 2005 with Tomas Enge (5th) and its best finish was in Vitor Meira’s first start with the team in 2006 when the Brazilian finished in fifth. Listed below is Panther’s qualification history on the popular street course:
Listed below is Panther’s Qualification History at St. Petersburg:
• 2011 – JR Hildebrand, qualified 24th (finished 11th, Running)
• 2010 – Dan Wheldon, qualified 15th (finished 20th, Accident)
• 2009 – Dan Wheldon, qualified 11th (finished 14th, Accident)
• 2008 – Vitor Meira, qualified 17th (finished 19th, Accident)
• 2007 – Vitor Meira, qualified 9th (finished 16th, Running)
• 2007 – Kosuke Matsuura, qualified 10th (finished 17th, Running)
• 2006 – Vitor Meria, qualified 12th (finished 5th, Running)
• 2005 – Tomas Scheckter, qualified 8th (finished 17th, Accident)
• 2005 – Tomas Enge, qualified 5th (finished 16th, Accident)
The IZOD IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast live on ABC at 12:30 p.m. (ET), with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 145 ad Sirius Channel 121.
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