JR Hildebrand Finishes 11th Despite Final-Lap Contact; Suffers Broken Bone In Left Hand

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 9, 2017) – Race Notes 

  • Though neither had driven on Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit in years, both Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand showed their prowess on the track. Pigot moved up 11 positions from his qualifying spot to finish 8th. Hildebrand was in contention for a Top 10 himself when a last-lap accident dropped him to 11th and left him with a broken bone in his left hand.
  • Pigot last raced in Long Beach in 2015 in Indy Lights, but had never competed at the track in an Indy car. Hildebrand had not been on the street course in an Indy car since 2013. Pigot finished second in his race; Hildebrand had two Top 5 finishes in Verizon IndyCar Series races at the track in 2012 and 2013.
  • Yesterday’s qualifications did not go as smoothly as the team would have hoped for, with Hildebrand rolling off 15th in today’s race and Pigot in 19th. The first caution of the race came on Lap 1 and the Ed Carpenter Racing drivers immediately split onto separate strategies. Pigot came in for a splash for fuel when the pit lane opened while Hildebrand stayed out on the track.
  • Hildebrand was 11th for the ensuing restart while Pigot was 15th. On Lap 11, Hildebrand brought his No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet into the pits, opting for a three-stop strategy. He had started the race on a set of black Firestone Firehawks, switching to the red tires during his stop.
  • Pigot was the highest-running Chevrolet driver in his first stint of the race, consistently in the Top 6. He made his first full-service stop on Lap 29, also switching to red tires after starting on blacks.
  • On Lap 30, Hildebrand radioed in that he had made contact with the rear of Graham Rahal’s car but did not feel that there was any damage to the front wing. On Lap 33, he made his second stop as he was within his pit window. The crew assessed the car during the stop and no damage was found.
  • Pigot’s race was not without similar concern as he brushed the wall with the left side of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet on Lap 46. He too felt there was no damage to the car; a look at the telemetry confirmed he was correct. On Lap 57, he made what was his final stop of the race. He made his stop from the 8th position, opting to finish the race on a set of sticker black tires.
  • A full-course caution on Lap 63 for the stopped car of Alexander Rossi allowed Hildebrand to get back on the lead lap. He was in 14th for the restart six laps later, while Pigot ran 8th.
  • Pigot was working his way around a lapped car on Lap 76 when Ed Jones and Carlos Munoz were able to get past him, dropping him from 8th to 10th.
  • Another caution flag flew for the stopped car of Ryan Hunter-Reay and the race went back green with four laps to go. Pigot was running 8th and Hildebrand had moved up into the Top 10.
  • Just past the white flag on Lap 85, Hildebrand was working his way around Mikhail Aleshin heading into Turn 1. Aleshin moved slightly down on Hildebrand and braked early, causing Hildebrand to run over the left rear of Aleshin’s car. The steering wheel was ripped from Hildebrand’s hand before the car came to a stop in the Turn 1 runoff. Aleshin was penalized following a post-race review and the position was returned to Hildebrand, giving him an 11th place finish. After the race, Hildebrand visited INDYCAR Medical and was diagnosed to have a broken bone in his left hand. He will head to Indianapolis tomorrow for further evaluation.
  • Meanwhile, Pigot was able to hold off competitor behind him that were on on red tires and maintain his 8th place position. It was the third Top 10 finish of his young Verizon IndyCar Series career and first of 2017. While he finished second in the Indy Lights race on the 1.968-mile, 12-turn street circuit in 2015, he had never raced in Long Beach in an Indy car.
  • Both the No. 20 and the No. 21 sported new looks this weekend in Long Beach. Social media sensation Loki the Wolfdog was on the side of Pigot’s No. 20, marking the first time a major social media influencer had been featured on an Indy car. Loki, with 1.4 million Instagram followers, visited Long Beach as a guest of Rising Star Racing. Hildebrand’s No. 21 featured the familiar Preferred Freezer Services livery, recognizable as the same scheme he ran at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is the first of four races for the white and blue scheme this season.
  • Ed Carpenter Racing will head to Texas Motor Speedway for an open test this coming Wednesday, April 12. The next Verizon IndyCar Series race will take place at Barber Motorsports Park in two weeks on Sunday, April 23.

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet), Finished 8th: “Overall, we have to pleased with the result, to be 8th after where we started! It was a bit of a shame to miss out on 6th, I thought we were there pretty comfortably. We just had a small issue coming out of the hairpin that allowed (Ed) Jones and (Carlos) Munoz to get past us. It was a good day, the guys did great with the pit stops as always. I have to thank them for all of their hard work, I wouldn’t have been able to finish this high without them. I am glad we were able to get a good result for Loki The Wolfdog and his followers!”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet), Finished 11th: “We chose an alternate strategy for today. A lot of cars went with a three-stop strategy, but we couldn’t make it work. We didn’t have the pace and were stuck with each other, out there just running around. That was frustrating, not quite being able to run quick enough to have our plan play out properly.

At the end of the race, we all were bunched back up because of that last yellow. I was on reds and had a little bit for at least the handful of cars in front of us. On the last lap, I was making a move on Mikael Aleshin and I could tell he was struggling. I was out of push-to-pass so I was trying to make a proper, full-out pass down he front straightaway. He had been starting to move over, not a major blocking maneuver but enough to assert his line. He hit the breaks a lot earlier than I was expecting and I ended up running into the back of him. In doing so, it ripped the steering wheel from my hand and I ended up tweaking it. At the end of the day, to come home with an 11th place finish isn’t terrible. It is a bummer though as we were certainly on our way to finishing in the Top 10 and now we are in a bit of a jam going forward. Hopefully I can get back to it here before the next race.”