JR HILDEBRAND QUALIFIES THIRD IN PHOENIX; EARNS BEST STARTING POSITION OF VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES CAREER
Hildebrand Will Start Third At Phoenix International Raceway; Carpenter Faces Challenges After Abbreviated Practice Session
- Less than three weeks after suffering a broken hand in a last-lap incident in the streets of Long Beach, JR Hildebrand qualified 3rd for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, the first oval race of 2017. Hildebrand, who had to sit out last week’s race at Barber Motorsports Park while recovering from surgery on his hand, received the all-clear on Tuesday afternoon to return to Verizon IndyCar Series competition. Hildebrand’s teammate and team owner Ed Carpenter will start 21st after being sidelined for much of practice.
- Though the track was under a wind advisory during this afternoon’s practice session, each qualification simulation Hildebrand ran had him consistently at the top of the leaderboard. He finished the session as the second-fastest driver with a lap of 191.681 miles per hour.
- Carpenter was only 17 laps into the two-hour practice session when a fuel leak was discovered on the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Chevrolet. The crew worked feverishly to swap out the fuel cell in time for qualifications, but Carpenter was not able run any practice laps of his own in qualifying trim. In qualifications, he managed an average speed of 186.360 miles per hour over his two-lap run. He will have 250 laps to make his way forward from his 21st place starting position.
- Hildebrand’s two-lap average of 193.912 will give the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet the third spot on tomorrow night’s starting grid. It is the best qualifying position of his Verizon IndyCar Series career. His previous best start was at Iowa Speedway in 2011 when he qualified 4th.
- The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be Carpenter’s first race of 2017 and will kick off his 15th season of Verizon IndyCar Series competition. Carpenter, who now races only the oval events, is the only owner/driver in the paddock.
- The Verizon IndyCar Series returned to Phoenix International Raceway in 2016 for the first time since 2005. As Hildebrand’s last full-time season in an Indy car was in 2012, he has not yet competed at PIR. Carpenter, 36, has three previous starts at PIR, including last year when he qualified a season-best 5th.
- NBC Sports Network will air the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 29.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Qualified 21st: “The guys did a great job turning the car back around and having it ready for qualifying. We just didn’t have the balance we needed and we’ll have to make our way forward from the back of the field tomorrow night.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Qualified 3rd: “I’m glad to be up there in the top three. The car has been good here from the test to rolling out today for practice. We had a good, strong run. It’s so difficult to pick your downforce level in these varied conditions. We saw the Penske guys roll out with a little less than where we were at, but frankly, our cars are really good in race trim. Ed (Carpenter) and the 20 car will be hauling it from the back but he’ll be someone to watch in the race for sure.”