- The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season has come down to the last event weekend of the year and the final 85 laps of competition. Ed Carpenter Racing drivers JR Hildebrand and Spencer Pigot will conclude their season this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, nestled in the hills at the entrance of the Sonoma Wine Country in northern California. The 17th of this year’s 17 races will take place this Sunday, September 17.
- Hildebrand, 29, grew up racing at Sonoma Raceway. Though he has only competed in three Indy car races at Sonoma, he has logged countless hours around the 2.385-mile, 12-turn natural-terrain road course. The driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet is from nearby Sausalito, Calif. and is spending the days leading up to the season finale promoting the race in the Bay Area. His most recent Indy car start at Sonoma yielded his best result, an 8th place in 2012. Hildebrand is familiar with reaching the podium at Sonoma as it was one of four tracks he won at on his way to claiming the 2009 Indy Lights championship.
- Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights champion, will finish out his second season as road and street course driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Pigot comes back to Sonoma looking for redemption as the 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma was the only race of Pigot’s rookie season he was not able to complete. On Lap 36 of last year’s event, Pigot’s gearbox abruptly let go in Turn 11 and stranded him on the hill leading up to Turn 2.
- Highlights of Hildebrand’s 2017 season consist of two podium finishes, his best career qualifying effort and matching the highest result of his career. Hildebrand broke a bone in his left hand in a last-lap incident in the second race of the year in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and was forced to miss the third round at Barber Motorsports Park. The next week, just 20 days removed from Long Beach, Hildebrand raced his way to third place at Phoenix Raceway. Midway through the season, Hildebrand started and finished second at Iowa Speedway, his best start and finish in his Indy car career. Hildebrand led races at Indianapolis, Iowa and Pocono.
- Over his sophomore season, Pigot has built a name for himself as a competitor capable of racing his way through the field in all situations. The 23-year-old is credited with executing over 50 on-track passes for position, but has had numerous promising runs cut short by a collection of circumstances outside of his control. Despite his misfortunes, he has still collected three Top 10 finishes this season. Two weeks ago at Watkins Glen International, Pigot matched his best qualifying position of 13th and led a Verizon IndyCar Series race for the first time in his career.
- Before official race weekend activity begins, Hildebrand and Pigot will participate in a series-wide open test at Sonoma on Thursday, September 14. NBC Sports Network will carry coverage from Sonoma Raceway, including the second practice session on Friday, September 15 at 5 p.m. ET. and qualifying on Saturday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m. ET The 2017 season will conclude on Sunday, September 17 with the championship-deciding Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma, broadcast live on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET.
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “Sonoma is always a difficult race. It’s the final race of the season so everyone will be trying to end their year on a high note and we will be doing the same. We didn’t have a great race last year after an issue took us out before half way so we will be looking to make a big step forward this time around. We had a productive test there earlier in the season so hopefully some of those gains will translate to pace on race weekend. Everyone on the Fuzzy’s Vodka cars will be doing their best for a strong finale before some much-deserved time off.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “I’ve been going to Sonoma Raceway since I was a kid and it was probably the first race track I went to with my dad. I grew up racing at Sonoma and went through the whole system; pretty much everything I’ve ever raced, I’ve raced there at some point! The cool thing about Sonoma is it’s such a unique track. They have always featured so many types of racing and growing up with that variety is part of what made me passionate about racing. It is very cool to have the season finale at my home track.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!