JR Hildebrand's passion for open-wheel racing outweighed his post-secondary educational pursuits.
Hildebrand, who graduated from Redwood High School in Corte Madera, Calif., was a member of the California Scholarship Federation and was a National Merit Scholar. He passed on an opportunity to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a career in motorsports.
Hildebrand quickly moved from karting to the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 title, the Atlantic Championship and then to Firestone Indy Lights. He earned his first career victory at Kansas Speedway in 2008 in his second start on an oval track. The following year, he dominated the championship, capturing four victories and six poles en route to the series title.
In 2010, he made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at Mid-Ohio and later in the season competed at Infineon Raceway. A two-day test in December 2010 at the challenging Phoenix International Raceway was more than enough to convince Panther team owner John Barnes that the young Californian was up to the task of taking the reins of the No. 4 National Guard entry for 2011. Following the season, his contract was extended through 2013.
Hildebrand played varsity baseball in high school and enjoys participating in most sports. He maintains a rooting interest in the San Francisco Giants and 49ers.
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES HIGHLIGHTS
First start: Aug. 8, 2010 (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course)
• Finished 11th in IZOD IndyCar Series standings for Panther Racing.
• Recorded six top-10 finishes, with a best of fifth at Long Beach and Texas.
• Had a high qualifying position of fifth at Barber.
• Finished 14th in IZOD IndyCar Series standings for Panther Racing.
• Runner-up in Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
• Recorded five top-10 finishes, with a best of second in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.
• Voted Chase Rookie of the Year for Indianapolis 500.
• Competed in two races for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing with best finish of 16th at Mid-Ohio.
ROAD TO THE IZOD INDYCAR SERIES
• Won Firestone Indy Lights championship driving for ARPRO Andretti Green/AFS Racing.
• Won races at Long Beach, Watkins Glen, Edmonton and Infineon in addition to seven other top-five finishes.
• Had six pole starts and led series-high 241 laps.
• Finished fifth in Firestone Indy Lights for RLR/Andersen Racing.
• Won first career race at Kansas, also recorded eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.
• Made Firestone Indy Lights debut at Infineon doubleheader with RLR/Andersen Racing.
• Finished seventh in Champ Car Atlantic competition for Newman-Wachs Racing, recording a best finish of second at Cleveland.
• Won Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 championship for Cape Motorsports, recording a record-setting 12 victories in 14 races.
• Made Champ Car Atlantic debut.
• Finished second in Pacific F2000 championship, recording two victories and nine podiums in 12 races.
• Competed in four Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 events.
• Finished third in Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Cup after winning Team USA Scholarship.
• Won SCCA Formula Russell Championship, recording seven victories and 11 podiums.
• Named SCCA Formula Russell Rookie of the Year.
• Selected as Red Bull Driver Search finalist.
• Won Jim Russell graduate run-offs.
• Finished second in Jim Russell Championship Series Junior 80 shifter kart division.
• Won Jim Russell Sprint Kart Series championship in TaG 125 class, recording four victories.