Ed Carpenter Racing puts one of their drivers on the podium at Phoenix, JR Hildebrand.
- Only 20 days after his left hand was broken in a last-lap incident two races ago, Hildebrand found himself as part a podium celebration for the first time in his Verizon IndyCar Series career. Hildebrand, who was forced to sit out last weekend’s race at Barber Motorsports Park while recovering from surgery on his hand, came back with a vengeance this week to capture a third place finish in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Team owner Ed Carpenter fought his way through the field to finish seventh after starting last in tonight’s race at Phoenix Raceway.
- Hildebrand rolled off from the third position, the highest he had qualified in his Verizon IndyCar Series career. Carpenter was forced to start 21st after a fuel leak sent the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet to the garage yesterday and limited his practice run to 17 laps. On the first lap of today’s 250 lap race, Carpenter avoided a five-car incident in front of him and immediately gained the positions. As he had run through the debris field following the accident, he came to pit road for a precautionary stop to change tires.
- Meanwhile, Hildebrand stayed at the front of the field and was running fourth at the time of the Lap 22 restart. Eventual race winner Simon Pagenaud passed Hildebrand on the restart, dropping him to 5th where he ran the entire next stint of the race. He brought the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka Chevrolet in for his first pit stop on Lap 75, rejoining the race in the 7th position.
- Carpenter had cycled up to second by the time of his pit stop two laps later. An issue with the outside front caused him to drop back to 15th, where he remained until the next round of stops began on Lap 122.
After both Hildebrand and Carpenter had made their next routine pit stops, a caution on Lap 138 left the field jumbled. Only five cars remained on the lead lap, including Hildebrand in 4th. Carpenter was caught one lap down, running 12th. Instead of being able to pass for position, Hildebrand was forced to pick his way through traffic. He eventually caught up to the third and fourth place drivers and ran with them for the duration of the run.
- Carpenter, who kicked off his 15th season of Verizon IndyCar Series competition this evening, let his experience show as he patiently and precisely began to work his way forward. Despite an ill-handling race car, he climbed his way into the Top 10 and was running 9th at the time of his last pit stop on Lap 197.
- Once Hildebrand had made his his final pit stop on Lap 204, he set sail for the front of the field. He again caught up to the drivers running third and fourth, Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves. On Lap 220, the group caught up to lapped cars. Hildebrand picked off Castroneves as he attempted to pass a slower car, then moved around Newgarden after he broke a front wing in the same traffic.
- In the closing laps of the race, Hildebrand was able to catch up to second place Will Power but did not have enough time to get around him. He settled for a third place finish, his best result since a second place in the Indianapolis 500 in 2011, his rookie season.
- Carpenter walked away from the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix with his first Top 10 finish since July of 2015. After facing a myriad of challenges during the 2016 season that kept him from a solid result, he bounced back tonight. He gained more positions than any other driver in the field, finishing 7th after starting 21st.
- 2017 marks Hildebrand’s return to full-time Verizon IndyCar Series competition. He has contested the May events with Ed Carpenter Racing since 2014, but has not run a full season since 2012 and had never raced at Phoenix International Raceway. He is 20 days removed from suffering a broken bone in his left hand at the close of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and 18 days out of surgery to repair it.
- Ed Carpenter Racing will head directly to Gateway Motorsports Park outside of St. Louis for a one-day test on Tuesday, May 1, before shifting their focus to the two May races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 7th: “Yesterday was kind of a nightmare, so to be able to come back from a that with a seventh-place finish was pretty good! And having our other car in the top three and rolling both on the truck, that’s a pretty good day. JR was super motivated to get back in the car and though he was bummed not to be able to make Barber, it’s great for him to get his first podium result here with the team. The whole team did a good job the entire weekend. Now we’re going to head to St. Louis for our next test, then it’s on to Indianapolis.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 3rd: “The car was just awesome all day. It was a little tricky on those first starts and restarts. I couldn’t quite get the timing right and the other guys were running a little less downforce than we were. I was having a hard time fighting everyone off when we were jammed together that close. Towards the end of the race, the car was just awesome. I really felt like I had something for Will (Power) there, if we were in a little more traffic for a little longer I think we could have gotten him. That’s where we were at our best at this race, just running in a whole pack of cars. Just a huge thanks to the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys and I’m psyched to be able to come back with a good weekend.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!