- Ed Carpenter Racing’s two drivers could not be more ready for the first oval race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, contested this Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway. Ed Carpenter will climb back behind the wheel of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet for his first race since August of 2016, while J.R. Hildebrand regains control of the sister No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet after being sidelined for one race with a broken hand.
- The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be Carpenter’s first race of 2017 and will kick off his 15th season of Verizon IndyCar Series competition. Carpenter, who now races only the oval events, is the only owner/driver in the paddock. Spencer Pigot takes over the No. 20 at road and street course events and has run in the Top 10 of all three events so far this year.
- This afternoon, Hildebrand received the all-clear from his doctors to return to Verizon IndyCar Series competition. Saturday night’s race will a welcome return for the 29-year-old, who had to sit out last weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park while recovering from a broken hand. Hildebrand underwent surgery on April 11 for the break, which occurred in a last-lap accident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach two days earlier. Zach Veach made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at Barber, filing in for Hildebrand in the No. 21.
- The Verizon IndyCar Series returned to Phoenix International Raceway in 2016 for the first time since 2005. As Hildebrand’s last full-time season in an Indy car was in 2012, he has not yet competed at PIR. Carpenter, 36, has three previous starts at PIR, including last year when he qualified a season-best 5th.
- Hildebrand and Carpenter participated in a two-day test at Phoenix International Raceway in early February. Between the two of them, they turned 447 laps – including the two fastest laps of the weekend. Carpenter’s fast lap of 192.404 miles per hour was bested only by Hildebrand’s lap of 193.234 miles per hour.
- Hildebrand’s best lap was actually faster than the current record of 192.324 miles per hour, set by Helio Castroneves during qualifications in 2016. However, because Hildebrand’s lap was set during a test session, it is not considered to be the track record.
- NBC Sports Network will air coverage of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Qualifying will be broadcast live at 11 p.m. ET on Friday, April 28. The race will be shown live, beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 29.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “I am super excited to get back to Phoenix and start my driving season. We have had a several of tests since my last race in Pocono, but it will be good to get back to a race weekend as a driver. We had a great open test at Phoenix in February and feel very confident heading into this weekend.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury, I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car! I feel like I’m far enough along to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix. I know we’ve got a good program; I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong. The competition there is tough, I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car! Everyone has been super helpful and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!