Former winner Rice returns to Indy 500
29 April 2011 – Panther Racing has announced that 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will be returning to the event this year. Driving alongside rookie J.R. Hildebrand, the 35-year-old will take to the wheel of the #44 car, with the team having finished as runners-up in the last three races at the legendary venue.
“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 J.R. and help the team,” said Rice, who last competed at Indy with Dreyer & Reinbold in 2008, but took the chequered flag with Rahal Letterman Racing four years earlier.
“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.”