It was a lost season in many ways for Panther Racing in 2013.
There was a sense of optimism entering the season opener at St Petersburg as third-year American driver JR Hildebrand appeared on the verge of making the leap to race winner in contender in the big-budgeted National Guard No. 4 Chevrolet.
But Hildebrand was fired after five just five races due to a variety of miscues, leading to the committee of three other pilots filling the remaining races. But the season ended, reportedly, with the team losing its lucrative military sponsorship package to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
As of press time, the move has not been made official and the team's status for next season remains unknown.
Looking back: Panther Racing's 2014 season was defined early and best characterized by two races with Hildebrand -- St. Pete and the Indianapolis 500.
At St. Pete, under caution, Hildebrand blindly ran right into the back of Will Power, ramping over the No. 12 Chevrolet just 78 laps into the season. But the mistakes, an unfortunate trademark of the early IndyCar career of JR Hildebrand, continued piling up.
In the Indy 500, a race that he cost himself back in 2011, misfortune struck again as the American spun into the wall without assist to bring out the event's first caution on the very first lap.
Panther Racing boss John Barnes had seen enough and ‘mutually parted ways' with Hildebrand, leading to the drive by committee that defined the remainder of the season. Oriol Servia, Ryan Briscoe and Carlos Munoz all took turns in the National Guard car for Barnes last season.
Servia delivered the team's best result, a seventh place, on two occasions -- at Iowa and in the second twin on the Streets of Houston. However, it was Briscoe that was decidedly the heir apparent for the ride in 2014, making a handshake agreement to join the team sometime after the conclusion of the season.
But the team lost its National Guard funding and lost Briscoe to Chip Ganassi Racing as a result. The team is now awaiting a final decision on the Guard front while also looking for alternative sponsorship/driver packages.
Looking ahead: With so much in flux for Panther Racing, it's hard to speculate on what shape the team will be in for next season. They remain stout at Indianapolis and if paired with the right veteran driver, like Servia, they could contend for podiums. It all depends on the resources and drivers available in the coming months.