JR HILDEBRAND TURNS FIRST LAPS AT POCONO RACEWAY
Ed Carpenter Excluded From ABC Supply 500 Qualifications
LONG PONG, Penn. (August 19, 2017) – Qualifying Notes
For the first time in his career, JR Hildebrand was able to drive at Pocono Raceway when the course opened for Verizon IndyCar Series practice this morning. Hildebrand had never turned laps on the 2.5-mile triangular oval prior to today and has now qualified for his first ABC Supply 500. Despite the efforts of the crew to have Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet ready in time for qualifying after an incident in this morning’s practice session, the car was six minutes late to tech inspection and Carpenter was not allowed to participate in qualifications.
Hildebrand quickly got up to speed in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet in this morning’s opening practice session, turning a lap at over 217 miles per hour in his very first run at Pocono. With 20 minutes left to go in the session, Carpenter held the fastest no-tow lap of the day and had just turned a lap that had him sitting 7th on the time charts. On his next lap, Carpenter spun entering Turn 3 and made heavy contact with the left side of the car. The extensive damage did not necessitate a change to the backup car and repairs began immediately on the original chassis.
Per INDYCAR rules, cars must be in the technical inspection line thirty minutes before the beginning of qualifications. Despite the efforts of the crew, the fully-repaired No. 20 was six minutes late to the tech line and was sent back to the garage, thus excluding Carpenter from qualifying for tomorrow’s 500-mile race. He will start from the back of the 22-car field.
During Hildebrand’s two lap qualifying run, he reached a point where he was unable to make any more adjustments to the car from inside the cockpit. Without the speed he was hoping for, he erred on the side of caution and opted to bring the car home safely. Hildebrand’s two-lap average of 214.988 miles per hour will have him starting 19th in the 200-lap race.
The last time Carpenter and Hildebrand competed in a 500-mile race, they were at the 2.5-mile oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Carpenter qualified 2nd for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500, giving ECR their 4th front row start in the past five years. Hildebrand earned the best qualifying position of his career at Indianapolis and started 6th. Both drivers led laps in the event; when Carpenter took the lead, 2017 became the 10th year in a row in which he has led a Verizon IndyCar Series race.
Hildebrand has collected solid results at the majority of the oval races this season. In addition to leading the Indianapolis 500, he scored podium finishes at two of the four oval races so far this year. Just 20 days removed from breaking a bone in his left hand in a last-lap incident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Hildebrand turned 250 laps under the lights at Phoenix Raceway and raced his way to a 3rd place finish. Last month at Iowa Speedway, he topped that performance when he matched his career-best Indy car result and finished 2nd.
Pocono will be the penultimate race of Carpenter’s season, who competes exclusively in the oval events. The only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series has finished no worse than 12th in his four races so far this year, including a 7th place at Phoenix. In addition to his front row start at Indianapolis, he also qualified 4th at Iowa. Carpenter has been quick throughout the year, recording the fastest lap times in practice sessions at Indianapolis and Texas Motor Speedway and the second-fastest lap in final practice at Iowa.
The 2017 ABC Supply 500 at “The Tricky Triangle” will air live on NBC Sports Network, beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 20.
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Qualified 19th: “The car was kind of leaning in the direction of being handful on the warm-up lap. I was trying to catch up to it with the tools in the car, but I got pretty close to just running out of adjustments. I just didn’t feel like I was catching up to where I needed to be to be able to put in a number. After we came through on the first lap without it seeming to improve any, I just wanted to hang on to the car. We’ve cleaned up one car today and needed to keep this one in one piece! If this was more of a short oval qualifying session where everyone was super close, you’d stay with with it. Here, we just kept it safe.”