- It was another eventful race day for Ed Carpenter Racing at Road America, the winding four-mile road course in Wisconsin referred to as America’s National Park of Speed. Spencer Pigot qualified 14th and raced his way up to 7th before a mechanical issue with the front suspension dropped him to the rear of the field. Even then, he persevered to bring home a 12th place finish. An untimely yellow caught JR Hildebrand on an alternate strategy, relegating him to a 16th place result.
- It was a game of tenths in qualifications yesterday for the KOHLER Grand Prix and both cars came up just shy of advancing to the second round. Pigot was only 0.09 seconds away from continuing on, while Hildebrand was 0.11 seconds back. Pigot started 55-lap race from the 14th position, while Hildebrand qualified 18th.
- The action started early as Pigot lost part of the front wing on his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Chevrolet on Lap 2 following contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay. An unscheduled pit stop on a track with such a long distance would have dropped Pigot far behind the field, so he elected to stay out and continue driving the car with the damage. It was the correct call as the damage to the front wing did not prove to be too much of a hindrance, with Pigot making his way from 16th to 11th before his first scheduled stop.
- Hildebrand settled in during the early laps, gaining one position and moving into 17th. Six laps into the race, he gambled on a different strategy and brought the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet in for it’s first stop. After a change from the alternate red Firestone Firehawks to the primary black tires, he rejoined the race at the rear of the field in 21st. Once the entire field had made their way through the pits for their first stop, Hildebrand had improved to the 16th position.
- Pigot made his first stop on Lap 12, taking two turns of front wing to compensate for the damage to the car. With the balance to the car restored, Pigot began his charge forward. He was up to 7th place before he made his second stop on Lap 24. Hildebrand had made his second pit stop six laps prior to Pigot’s.
- The first full course caution came out on Lap 29 for a spin and a stall by Takuma Sato in Turn 11. Hildebrand took advantage of the one lap of yellow to make his third pit stop of the race. Pigot did not need to pit, but radioed in just after the caution that he was encountering a mechanical issue with the front suspension that made the car too difficult to drive. He also pitted, albeit for a lengthy stop. The No. 20 crew quickly diagnosed and rectified the problem and Pigot rejoined the race in the 19th position. Hildebrand was 15th at the time of the restart on the following lap.
- Because of the duration of the repairs, Pigot was not able to catch up to the field before the green flag and spent his entire next stint approximately a half of a lap behind. Meanwhile, Hildebrand raced his way up to 11th. Both stopped again on Lap 42, their last scheduled stop of the race. Hildebrand chose to finish the race on black tires while Pigot took scuffed reds.
- The earlier mechanical issue reared it’s head again on Pigot’s stop, this time on the opposite side of the car. Since it was a green flag stop, Pigot was not able to make up any time and exited the pit lane just in front of the leaders. Luck was on Pigot’s side as the second full-course caution gave him the opportunity to not only catch up to the field, but also make another pit stop to inspect the suspension without losing any time.
- The luck that helped Pigot hurt Hildebrand, who was on a strategy that favored the race staying green until the end. Hildebrand, running 13th on black tires, was not able to hold cars off on the reds when the race resumed green flag conditions on Lap 48. He fell to 16th, then had an identical issue to what had plagued Pigot. With the race coming to a close, Hildebrand was able to finish without making an additional pit stop and finished 16th.
- Once Pigot was back with the pack, he took advantage of a race car he had known to be quick all day. At the restart on Lap 48, he was the last car running at the rear of the field. In the final seven laps of the race, he made up five positions to finish 12th.
- Team owner Ed Carpenter will step back in to the No. 20 for a test on Tuesday at Iowa Speedway alongside Hildebrand. ECR will return to the .875-mile oval for the Iowa Corn 300 on July 9 as the defending race winning team. Josef Newgarden scored the victory for ECR last year, leading 282 of 300 laps.
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 12th: “There was a lot of hard racing out there today. We had gotten pretty far up into the field before we had some issues with the front suspension that prevented us from continuing our move forward. We had to make a few extra stop that took a long time, but the Fuzzy’s Vodka guys did a really good job at diagnosing the problem and fixing it as quick as they could. Our pace was really good and I’m slightly satisfied to come back to 12th. It was unfortunately another race where we should have finished much higher up!”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet), Finished 16th: “We felt pretty good about how the race was going for a while, we were running with some normally racy guys. Then that last yellow came out and we were stuck on blacks without much overtake left. I’d burned up a lot of overtake just trying to get up to where we were at. We may have ended up 12th or 13th, something like that. It wasn’t going to be anything to write home about, but at least we had worked our way up through the field a little bit. When it went back to green, we just got eaten up by those guys that were on red and still had a bit of overtake left. Then we had a mechanical issue within the last three laps of the race that really took us out of the running altogether. We just kind of have to take this result on the chin and move on to Iowa.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!