Hildebrand Kicks Off Indy Opening Day Third; Rice Makes Return

2004 Indianapolis 500 Winner Takes First Laps at Historic Oval Since Last IndyCar Action in 2008

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – (May 14, 2011) – Panther Racing kicked off Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday by putting rookie driver JR Hildebrand third on the speed charts, and by welcoming 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rick back to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Hildebrand, who was the quickest rookie during last Thursday’s Rookie Orientation Program, got back up to speed quickly while Rice did a shake-down run of the No. 44 car and took his first laps at Indianapolis since a test with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing following the 2008 season.

A pair of rain delays hampered an otherwise beautiful opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as upwards of 40 drivers have entered the event to make a run at qualifying for the 33-car field that will comprise the 100th Anniversary Running of the Indianapolis 500.

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Former Panther driver Ed Carpenter was the quickest driver in the field today with a top lap of 224.786 mph, 40.0380. Carpenter and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon (224.491 mph, 40.0907 second) were the only two drivers of the 32 who posted laps that had a quicker speed than Hildebrand in the No. 4 National Guard entry.

The 95th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will be broadcast live on ABC on Sunday, May 29th at 12:00 p.m. with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, www.indycar.com, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211.

JR Hildebrand

No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda

Top Speed: 224.433 mph

Top Time: 40.1011 seconds

Number of Laps: 16

Overall Rank: 3rd on speed chart

JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:

“We’re really happy with how the day went. I probably could have pulled off an even better lap there but for me it’s still a matter of understanding what I’m expecting to happen compared to what is actually going to happen when I’m out there. The National Guard car felt good and we didn’t have anything out of the ordinary, and we understand it’s going to be a whole different gig when there are a bunch of different cars out there, as that creates a lot more turbulent air. Thankfully through rookie orientation and again today we’ve been able to make positive steps every time by making small steps every time. If we can keep up the pace of what we’re doing then it should be positive as we continue to move forward.”

Buddy Rice

No. 44 Panther Racing Dallara Honda

Top Speed: 221.261 mph

Top Time: 40.6393 seconds

Number of Laps: 18

Overall Rank: 16th

Buddy Rice, No. 44 Panther Racing DallaraHonda:

“Everything is good so far. We’re focused on the racecar and then a little later we’ll work on qualifying. I’m happy to be back out here and to be able to come back with Panther and with JR and the National Guard car – this is what I wanted. I wanted to be able to come back here and compete for a win and to be able to run up front and these guys have given me that opportunity. With this many people it’s going to be tight here. I’m happy to be with Panther and the group that I’m with.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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