Panther Racing parted ways with JR Hildebrand on Thursday after his third major mistake since joining the team in 2011.
The team called it a “mutual agreement” to terminate Hildebrand’s contract, which ran through the 2013 season. Hildebrand, the 2009 Indy Lights champion, made 37 starts in the No. 4 National Guard/Panther Racing Chevrolet.
Ryan Briscoe will drive the car this weekend in the two races in Detroit.
“We’d like to thank JR Hildebrand for his contributions to Panther Racing, and especially the work he put into supporting the National Guard and all of our programs to support its soldiers,” Panther managing partner John Barnes said. “JR is a great young man, a class act, and somebody who has been a great representative of our race team and all of our partners since 2011.”
Hildebrand nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in 2011, but crashed in the final turn and wound up second behind Dan Wheldon.
In this year’s opener, he wrecked Will Power under caution at St. Petersburg and said he was distracted as he talked with his team and adjusted equipment in the car. In Sunday’s Indy 500, he lost control in Turn 1 and slid into the outside wall – the first wreck of the race.
“I want to thank Panther Racing for the opportunity,” Hildebrand said. “I’m very much looking forward to the next chapter in my IndyCar career, and wish all my friends at Panther the absolute best.”
Briscoe, 31, spent most of the past five seasons with Team Penske after making his IndyCar Series debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2005. He ran Sunday’s Indy 500 for Ganassi and finished 12th.
“We couldn’t be happier to have Ryan Briscoe join Panther Racing this weekend,” Barnes said. “He’s a championship-caliber driver who’s proven he can win races on any type of track in the IndyCar Series. We have no doubt he can jump right into our program and put the No. 4 National Guard Chevy at the front of the field.”
Briscoe has seven career IndyCar Series wins to go with 13 poles, including last year’s Indianapolis 500. He has spent most of this year in ALMS.
“I’m unbelievably excited to be back in the IndyCar Series with Panther Racing,” Briscoe said. “I’ve competed against this team for a long time and it will be great to have the opportunity to work with John Barnes and the Panther guys. I’m confident we’ll all work well together and be able to hit the ground running this weekend in Detroit.”
TNT gives fans ‘All Access’
The TNT portion of the NASCAR television schedule begins next week at Pocono and the network will attempt to give fans a backstage pass during its six-race run.
TNT will showcase one driver per week in an “All Access” segment during its pre-race coverage.
First up for the network will be Denny Hamlin, who will be followed by the network from the time Sunday’s race at Dover concludes through next Friday’s qualifying at Pocono.
TNT will give all-access of Brad Keselowski leading into Michigan, Juan Pablo Montoya before Sonoma and Kurt Busch before Kentucky.