IndyCar rookies JR Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball will remain on board with their respective teams, Panther Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing, after both teams took up their options on their up-and-coming stars.
Hildebrand claimed runner-up honours in the Rookie Of The Year standings to Newman/Haas driver James Hinchcliffe, and a very impressive season driving for the National Guard-backed Panther squad, nearly winning the Indianapolis 500.
Had he not have crashed on the final corner and handed the win to the late Dan Wheldon, Hildebrand would have claimed a sensational win, but his other highlights included a fourth place at Iowa (a race he also led) on top of a further four top-ten finishes.
“We’re happy that we’re able to keep JR in the #4 car for the next two years,” he said. “We signed him last year with every intention that he would be in the #4 car for the foreseeable future and he proved both inside and outside the race car that he was a perfect fit for this team and what we represent.”
Once he recovers from scheduled knee surgery – to repair a torn arterial cruciate ligament he suffered during a press event earlier in the year – Hildebrand will be back behind the wheel for his maiden test session in the new DW12 chassis being run for next year’s championship season.
Meanwhile, Chip Ganassi Racing has re-signed the services of Kimball after it secured a long-term sponsorship deal with his primary backers, the pharmaceutical group Novo Nordisk.
Kimball made history as the series’ first ever competitor who has Type 1 Diabetes, and with Novo Nordisk being a world leader in insulin treatment, the two have enjoyed a long-term relationship since Kimball’s days in the Indy Lights championship.
“We are extremely proud to continue our partnership with Charlie Kimball and Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing,” Novo Nordisk’s Corporate Vice President of Diabetes Marketing Camille Lee said.
The announcement effectively means that the Chip Ganassi team can retain a four-car line-up for the 2012 season, partnering Kimball with Graham Rahal in the ‘junior’ team, while Scott Dixon and newly-crowned champion Dario Franchitti remain in the ‘senior’ squad.
“Charlie has done everything that we have asked of him on the track and we certainly feel his future is bright. As for Novo, they have been a tremendous partner both on and off the track,” team owner Chip Ganassi added.
“It speaks volumes that a company like Novo Nordisk is making this type of long-term commitment to our team, to Charlie, and the IndyCar Series.”
[Images via LAT]