- JR Hildebrand matched the best finish of his Verizon IndyCar Series career today with a second place in the Iowa Corn 300. Hildebrand’s result was the third podium and fourth Top 5 finish in a row for Ed Carpenter Racing at Iowa Speedway. Team owner Ed Carpenter battled an ill-handling racecar and a broken weight jacker but still managed a 12th place finish at the conclusion of the 300-lap event.
- Hildebrand rebounded from a crash in the first practice session yesterday to earn his highest qualifying position to date just hours later. The No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet rolled off second in the Iowa Corn 300, Hildebrand’s first front row start. Carpenter was just behind, starting on the outside of the second row after qualifying 4th.
- Hildebrand fell back on the start, dropping to fourth after being passed by eventual race winner Helio Castroneves and Carpenter. Both ECR drivers reported understeer throughout the first stint, with Carpenter sliding back to 5th and Hildebrand to 6th. The first caution on Lap 57 welcome for both, who took advantage of the yellow to stop for fuel, new tires, and front wing adjustments.
- The race restarted on Lap 66 with Carpenter in 4th and Hildebrand in 5th. Carpenter passed Graham Rahal just after the race went back green, moving up to 3rd. Though he was able to complete the pass, he continued to struggle with a car that was lacking grip in betweens Turn 1 and 2. When the front wing adjustment did not help the handling of his car, Carpenter attempted to make adjustments from inside the cockpit and discovered that the weight jacker had malfunctioned. Any additional changes to the car would have to be made by the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka crew on pit lane.
- Meanwhile, Hildebrand started his charge to the front on Lap 73, first passing Rahal, then Carpenter on Lap 88. Pole sitter Will Power was next in Hildebrand’s sights and picked off Power on Lap 92. Hildebrand went to the lead of the Iowa Corn 300 on Lap 97 after clearing Castroneves with ease. Hildebrand led 37 laps, pacing the field to the next round of pit stops under yellow on Lap 135. Castroneves was able to beat Hildebrand to the pit exit following their stops, giving Castroneves back the lead of the race.
- When the race went back to green on Lap 142, Carpenter was running 8th. Hildebrand was passed by Power and dropped to 3rd, though the two exchanged positions again before another yellow flag flew on Lap 171. All lead lap drivers stopped, with the exception of Charlie Kimball, and Hildebrand rejoined the field in 5th while Carpenter was 12th. The race went back green for only 15 laps before going yellow for moisture, followed by a brief red flag while a passing shower moved out of the area.
- The Iowa Corn 300 resumed on Lap 209 and remained green until the conclusion. Hildebrand was the first car to make his final pit stop, coming in on Lap 246. By virtue of stopping first and a blistering 6.5 second pit stop from the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka crew, Hildebrand cycled back to the front of the field. He was in position to regain the lead when the one more car pitted, but Castroneves, who led for 217 of the 300 laps today, snuck by Hildebrand in traffic. Despite being on older tires, Hildebrand was able to maintain his position and faced no challengers in the closing laps of the race. Hildebrand would finish 2nd, 3.9 seconds behind Castroneves.
- Carpenter’s 12th place result was only the second time he has finished outside of the Top 10 at Iowa Speedway since founding Ed Carpenter Racing in 2012. Carpenter, who competes in only the oval races, will have two more opportunities to race this year with events at Gateway Motorsports Park and Pocono Raceway.
- Hildebrand’s second place finish would become his highest finish of 2017, topping a 3rd at Phoenix International Raceway in late April. It also matched his career best Verizon IndyCar Series result, a second place in the 2011 Indianapolis 500. He had not raced at Iowa Speedway since 2012 and his previous best finish at the .875-mile oval was 4th in 2011, his rookie year.
- Ed Carpenter Racing will return to their Speedway, Ind. race shop to quickly prepare for next weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto, the only international stop for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Hildebrand will be joined by road and street course driver Spencer Pigot as the team looks for its third victory in the streets of Toronto. ECR won both the 2014 and 2015 editions of the race, including a 1-2 finish in the latter. The 2017 Honda Indy Toronto will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network, with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 16.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 12th: “There are a lot of emotions after a day like today. I finished 12th and that’s not what I came here to do. It’s disappointing from that standpoint. Obviously, I’m happy for JR and the result he got for the team, but I’m also just disappointed in my day. It’s hard to get past those emotions. We don’t totally know what happened; we definitely had a weight jacker failure which sure didn’t help anything. Hopefully we’ll be able to catch a break with one of my last two races this year and get a good result, hopefully get a win. It’s been too long!”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 2nd: J“It feels good. I definitely think that under some slightly different circumstances we had a car to win out there. The guys made a great call to pit early and get out into the lead at the end and try to hustle all the way. I think if we’d been on equal tires with Helio (Castroneves) we’d have had something for him there at the end – but all-and-all really excited for the Fuzzy’s Vodka crew to get on the podium here again. They definitely deserved it after the weekend that we had. Hopefully this gets us kicked off for a stretch run going into the rest of the year.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!