A string of underwhelming performances to start the season has led Panther Racing to terminate the services of JR Hildebrand with immediate effect. Australian racer Ryan Briscoe has been signed to take over the seat for this weekend’s at Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix double-header.
After being dropped by the Penske team at the end of the 2012 season, Briscoe was without a drive heading into 2013. He made a return to the series at the Indianapolis 500 in a one-off outing for his old team, Chip Ganassi Racing, bringing home the car in 12th place – higher than both of Ganassi’s full-time drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
Panther Racing owner John Barnes said the decision to part ways with Hildebrand was mutual, thanking the young Californian for his services both in the car and as an ambassador for long-term primary sponsor, America’s National Guard.
He was also the first man to crash out of the Indy 500 last weekend, an embarrassing result for a driver widely lauded as an oval-racing specialist.
His other results included a DNF at St Pete in which he crashed into Will Power under a caution period, launching himself over the top of the Aussie’s Penske in a very awkward and head-scratching accident. Hildebrand came home 17th and 15th at Barber and Sao Paulo.
A seven-time race winner, Briscoe said he was looking forward to working with the Panther team at Detroit.
“I’m unbelievably excited to be back in the IndyCar Series with Panther Racing and to have the opportunity to drive the National Guard Chevrolet this weekend,” he beamed.
It is unclear at this point whether Briscoe will drive the remainder of the season for Panther. Oriol Servia had also been linked with the drive after his Dreyer & Reinbold team (co-run with Panther Racing) closed up shop after the Indy 500 due to funding issues.