JR Hildebrand has re-signed for a further two year deal with Panther Racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series and will stay with the team through to the end of 2013.
Hildebrand famously lost the chance to win the centennial Indianapolis 500 in May when he crashed going through the final corner, and ultimately lost out on gthe rookie of the year title to James Hinchcliffe, but nonetheless had a strong début season in the series.
"We're happy that we're able to keep JR in the #4 car for the next two years," said Panther Racing's managing partner and CEO John Barnes. "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."
Hildebrand was the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, and was originally signed by Panther last December after a two-day driver evaluation test at Phoenix International Raceway. Originally his contract was for one year with a two-year further option, which the team have now picked up.
"I'm super stoked that I'm going to be back at Panther for the next two years," said Hildebrand. "Everybody at Panther is excited about getting started on next year and especially looking forward to getting back to the Indianapolis 500 so we can avenge our battle scar."
Talking about that infamous end to the Indy 500, his team boss said that JR's response to that devastating last-second loss had been a test of Hildebrand's character - and that he had proved himself beyond question to the team in how he'd coped.
"The true test of any athlete is how they handle adversity, and I couldn't be more impressed with how he handled himself during the course of this season," said Barnes. "We've all got our work cut out for us for next season, and we're very pleased that JR is going to be a part of that."
Hildebrand did struggle for results somewhat toward the end of the season. He needed surgery after the season finished to repair a torn arterial cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee that he suffered at a media event at Texas Motor Speedway shortly after the Indy 500, broke a bone in his hand at Baltimore and was then hospitalised following the disastrous multi-car accident at Las Vegas with a bruised sternum and a concussion.
"It was a crazy year for us," the 23-year-old Californian agreed. "But we had some really strong runs and I enjoyed being a part of this team."
Hildebrand is scheduled to test the 2012 Dallara 'DW12' chassis for Chevrolet in early December.