Who is JR Hildebrand?
National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, burst onto the open-wheel scene last season after a dramatic runner-up finished in the 100th Anniversary of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The 24-year-old Californian returns to drive Panther's No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet in 2012 after a promising rookie campaign.
Hildebrand led three different races in 2011 and finished his rookie season with two Top Five and five Top Ten finishes. Outside of his second-place finish at Indy, JR scored an oval-best fourth-place finish at Iowa Speedway and finished seventh in the road course event at Twin Ring Motegi. Hildebrand drove most of the 2011 season with a torn left ACL, which he suffered at an off-track event in June.
Hildebrand, the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, made his IndyCar Series debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2010 at Mid-Ohio as a replacement for the then-injured Mike Conway. In his only other start with the team, he posted the fastest race lap at Infineon Raceway, located just miles from his home of Sausalito, California.
Hildebrand was accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but was allowed to defer his acceptance to pursue his motorsports career.
- Self-described ″adrenaline junkie″ took an F-16 ride with the USAF Thunderbirds in 2011, went ice-climbing in Colorado during the offseason and wants to skydive and someday fly in a wingsuit.
- Idolizes Steve McQueen.
- Graduated from Redwood High School in Corte Madera, Calif. with a 4.12 GPA and was a National Merit Scholar. Was accepted to MIT's Mechanical Engineering program after graduation, but deferred his acceptance to pursue motorsports career.
- Loves hot rods and classic cars; was given dream car (1966 Chevelle SS) by team owner John Barnes as reward for Indy finish in 2011.
- Played varsity baseball in high school, and is a die-hard fan of the San Francisco Giants.
- Claims to have been raised in a ″Chevy family″ after he became interested in racing watching his father John race a vintage Camaro.
- Trains at St. Vincent's Sports Performance Center and enjoys running, boxing, mountain biking, baseball, basketball and extreme sports.
- Is a national spokesperson for the National Guard's Youth ChalleNGe program (www.ngyf.org), which helps at-risk high school dropouts.
Yearly Career Highlights:
2011: Voted Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after runner-up finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway … Led three different races during the season; Indianapolis, Iowa and Kentucky … Posted best non-Indy finish of the year at Iowa Speedway, where he finished fourth … Captured best career non-oval finish of seventh-place on the road course at Twin Ring Motegi … Finished 14th in IZOD IndyCar Series standings for Panther Racing … Runner-up in the IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year standings to James Hinchcliffe … Recorded five Top Ten finishes, with a best of second in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 … Suffered torn ACL in left knee during promotional event at Texas Motor Speedway in June, but did not miss any track time as a result.
2010: Made IZOD IndyCar Series debut at Mid-Ohio for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, finishing 16th… Also competed in race at Infineon Raceway, finished 24th after contact with another car, but set the fastest lap of the race …Conducted a driver evaluation test in December with Panther Racing at Phoenix International Raceway, and was announced as the full-time driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing entry the following week.
2009: Won Firestone Indy Lights championship for ARPRO/Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing with four wins and five pole positions…Won at Long Beach, Watkins Glen, Edmonton and Infineon...Recorded 11 Top Five and 12 Top Ten finishes. Started on pole at St. Petersburg 1, Long Beach, Iowa, Edmonton, Kentucky and Infineon….Named to AARWBA All-America first team in at-large category...Tested for Force India F1 at Jerez in December.
2008: Finished fifth in Firestone Indy Lights standings for RLR/Andersen Racing…Won his first career race at Kansas, also recorded eight Top Five and 12 Top Ten finishes.
2007: Made Firestone Indy Lights debut at Infineon doubleheader with RLR/Andersen Racing…Finished seventh in Atlantic Championship, recording a best finish of second at Cleveland.
2006: ·Won Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 championship, recording a record-setting 12 victories in 14 races… Made one Champ Car Atlantic debut…Named to AARWBA All-America first team in the at-large category.
2005: Finished second in Pacific F2000 championship, recording two wins and nine podiums in 12 races… Competed in four Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 events...Finished third in Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Cup after earning the Team USA Scholarship.
2004: Won SCCA Formula Russell Championship, recording seven victories and 11 podiums…Named SCCA Formula Russell Rookie of the Year…Selected as finalist in Red Bull Driver Search.
Early Career: Won Jim Russell graduate run-offs in 2003 after finishing second in Jim Russell Championship Series Junior 80 shifter kart division…Captured Jim Russell Sprint Kart Series championship in TaG 125 class, recording four victories in 2002.