- Only 85 laps remain in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, tomorrow’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand have completed their final qualifying session of the year, setting the grid for the start of the season finale. Pigot will roll off from the inside of Row 9 in 17th, while Hildebrand will be just behind, starting 20th from the outside of Row 10.
- When the green flag waved for Group 1 of qualifying, Pigot headed out immediately on a set of new Firestone Firehawk alternate red tires. After two laps and a quick time of 1:17.2662 which had him sitting 5th, he stopped for a second set of sticker red tires and a front wing adjustment. Three more laps followed, but Pigot was unable to set a quicker time. His earlier lap had him 9th at the end of the 10 minute session, giving him the 17th starting position for tomorrow’s race.
- The same plan was implemented for Hildebrand, who also went out right away on a set of sticker reds as Group 2 of qualifying began. Hildebrand, too, sat 5th after his first run, then came into the pit lane for his second set of new red tires. Hildebrand was 10th at checkered flag with a fastest lap of 1:17.1602, his best of the weekend. He will start 20th in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
- 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 Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet is from nearby Sausalito, Calif. and claims Sonoma as his home track. 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, is finishing 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.
- In his sophomore season, Pigot’s name has become synonymous with the ability to race his way through the field. The 23-year-old is credited with over 50 on-track passes for position this year, but unfortunate circumstances have limited him to three Top 10 finishes. He was running 5th in St. Petersburg when a brake rotor ignited; a misfire of the engine at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped him from 6th; and he had climbed to 8th at Road America when he had to make two lengthy pit stops for repairs to the suspension. In Toronto, Pigot gained seven positions in the first 15 green flag laps but was relegated to the rear of the field after one of his tires was cut by another competitor. He has continually improved throughout the season, matching his best qualifying position to date just two weeks ago at Watkins Glen International and leading the first laps of his Indy car career.
- The 2017 season will conclude tomorrow with the championship-deciding Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “We’ve been struggling to find grip all weekend and we definitely didn’t find it in qualifying. We’ll go back to the drawing board tonight and try to get this Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy a little bit more competitive for tomorrow.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “Unfortunately, we’ve been struggling at these permanent road courses this year. We rolled off the truck and and felt okay on the test day. We were running mid-pack for a lot of that day and we felt like we were going to be able to continue to make the car better. We’ve been trying a lot of the right things, but it just seems like something is missing. It’s frustrating, especially being back here on home turf, not to just be more competitive all together. We’ve got some options for the race tomorrow, it’s always a long one! If we can look after our tires, we’ll have a good run. Hopefully we can finish out the season with a solid final result.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!