Yet another TBA can be replaced on the 42-car Indianapolis 500 entry list announced earlier this month. Panther Racing announced late last night that 2004 Indianapolis 500 Champion Buddy Rice will join the team for Indianapolis.
"I’m pumped to be at Panther, and the intention is that we’ll be able to run more than Indy, but this is the first step, and I’m here to help JR and help the team,” Rice said. “The whole key for me coming back is that I wanted to be in competitive equipment and have a chance to win. I didn’t want to come back to Indy just to pound out laps, and given how competitive the series has become that’s how it has to be. I’ve had offers in the past that didn’t work out for different reasons, and I wasn’t coming back and driving unless I had the chance to run up front – that’s always been my goal. Panther is a team that can win the race so when I had the opportunity, I couldn’t say no.”
Not in an Indy Car since 2008, Rice will run the #44 Panther entry with sponsorship to be announced on a later date.
“Buddy and I have talked for years about him joining the team and never had an opportunity that aligned itself, so when this came about to run a second car at the Speedway, he was high on our list and he was excited about being a part of Panther,” Panther Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. “He’s going to make a huge impact on JR and his development, and from the time we decided Hildebrand was the future of our team we wanted to bring along a mentor and somebody that could help our entire team, and when the opportunity came along with Buddy, it was a no-brainer for us. We hope this isn’t a one-and-done thing; we want Buddy for more races this season, and we feel this opportunity is a win-win for all of us.”
Rice's announcement bumps the confirmed car/driver car count at Indianapolis to 37 entries.