JR Hildebrand Stumbles Into More Trouble In Texas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 8 2011

JR Hildebrand slides across the finish line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the end of the 500. He stumbled again Wednesday in Texas. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fort Worth, Texas – Rookie JR Hildebrand’s star-crossed fortunes took another bizarre twist Wednesday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, where the 2011 Indianapolis 500 runnerup suffered what has been described as “an injury to his left knee” during a promotion for the inaugural Firestone Twin 275s.

Hildebrand was competing against IZOD IndyCar Series rival Ryan Briscoe in a “Driven by Fitness” promotion featuring a “boot camp-style obstacle course” when he bumped his left knee on the top board of a two-foot high wooden hurdle. That hurdle was the sixth and final obstacle of the competition.

Hildebrand’s knee broke the top board upon contact, and the 23-year-old Californian stumbled to the ground on a grassy lot outside the Lone Star Tower condominiums.

Hildebrand remained on the ground for several minutes catching his breath, as the outside of his left knee appeared to swell. TMS public relations staffers provided Hildebrand with some cold towels and ice from a nearby cooler to wrap the knee. Hildebrand was able to stand and walk to a nearby SUV, which reportedly transported him to the track’s Infield Care Center.

Hildebrand, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Dallara/Honda fielded by Panther Racing, did not speak with the handful of media covering the event. He was accompanied to the Infield Care Center by

JR Hildebrand suits up at Indy. On Wednesday, he ran into problems in Texas.

Panther PR rep Mike Kitchel, who could not be reached for an update Wednesday evening.

However, the following report was provided by Mike Zizzo, TMS’ vice president of media relations: “Was told JR sustained a left knee injury but will race on Saturday.”

The Firestone Twin 275s are the headline events of a weekend of night racing at TMS. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400 is scheduled for Friday night on the 1.5-mile quadoval.

Meanwhile, a TMS open-wheel record 30 cars have been entered for Saturday night’s Firestone Twin 275s – a pair of separate, 114-lap events that are a first run under INDYCAR sanction. There is no on-track activity scheduled for IndyCar Series teams and drivers on Thursday.

IndyCar Series regulars will practice for one-hour and 15 minutes on Friday beginning at 12:30 p.m. (CDT) before qualifying at 3:45 p.m. A final IndyCar practice is scheduled from 6:45 to 7:15 p.m. Friday. The first Twin race is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Saturday, followed by a one-hour intermission during which a blind draw will determine the starting grid for the second Twin. That race is scheduled for 9:45 p.m.

Hildebrand became a national story on May 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where his Turn 4 crash on the final lap of the 100th anniversary Indy 500 opened the door for Englishman Dan Wheldon’s second career win in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The outcome of Wednesday’s competition with Briscoe was decided by the sixth and final obstacle, on a course laid out by Sgt. Robert Johnson, owner of the Elite Boot Camp. The course included a rope climb, tractor tire flip, ramps and walls to climb, tire agility drill, low crawl pit under a net and sprint to the finish.

Briscoe’s winning time of 32.59-seconds earned him a pair of bronzed military boots from Sgt. Johnson and four-time Olympic gold-medalist Michael Johnson. Briscoe, who won the Firestone 550k here last June over Andretti Autosport teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti, was cast as reluctant victor as Hildebrand hobbled away for treatment. The event was staged to showcase that drivers truly are athletes.

“We’ll have to watch the slow-mo replay, I think,” Briscoe joked after catching his breath. “It was

Ryan Briscoe is headed down Texas way this weekend where he is the defending race winner.

pretty close. I think he (Hildebrand) was in front of me after the tractor (tire) tumble and then he was a bit slow jumping over the middle (obstacle) before the net (crawl)…and we were about neck-and-neck going over the last jump here.”

Ironically, Briscoe said he and Hildebrand broached the subject of an injury prior to the start of the event, played-out around 2:45 p.m. in mid-90-degree temperatures.

“Yeah, we were talking about that,” said Briscoe, driver of the No. 6 IZOD Dallara/Honda fielded by Team Penske. “I was more worried about that first obstacle, the rope climb and then jumping off the top. I said, ‘Let’s not break an ankle here.’ But he sort of whacked (his knee) on the wood. I’m sure he’ll be OK, but you get a competition between two drivers and we’re not going to go 50 percent.”

Hildebrand, who includes boxing and MMA training in his fitness regimen, trains at the Indianapolis gym PitFit, which specializes in training drivers and crew members in motorsports. He enjoys fitness competitions such as marathons and distance biking.

Briscoe, a 29-year-old Australian, went wire-to-wire to earn his first victory at TMS last June. He became the sixth IndyCar Series driver to win here from the pole.

Briscoe was accompanied by Penske teammate Will Power, a two-time winner this season in the No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Honda. The series points-leader, Power declined to participate because of a sensitive lower back. Also attending was Eddie Gossage, TMS president, who conducted a pre-event interview session with the contestants and guests.

Indy 500 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani will compete this weekend at TMS with a new engineer. Sam Schmidt Motorsports has hired Todd Malloy as race engineer for the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda driven by Tags.

Malloy replaces Allen McDonald, who returned earlier this week to Andretti Autosport as director of engineering and as race engineer for the No. 27 car driven by Brit Mike Conway.

“We are very fortunate to have Todd with us this weekend,” said Rob Edwards, team manager for SSM. “Since he was part of the engineering group (Nos. 77, 98 and 99 teams) working together at Indy, it will help the transition. At the same time, Allen was part of the founding group of this team; so much of the continuity that has built up over the last 18 months will be lost. Instead of work happening intuitively, we will have to learn to work together as we go.”

McDonald was chief race engineer for Tagliani, the popular Canadian who earned the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by AutoZone for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.

Industry veteran Trevor Knowles has been hired as director of engine development by INDYCAR, sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Knowles will report to Will Phillips, INDYCAR’s vice president of technology, and work in developing the rules and performance standards for the three IndyCar Series engine manufacturers set to join the series in 2012. Chevrolet and Lotus will join longtime partner Honda as engine suppliers beginning next season.

“Trevor’s primary role will be to monitor all engine manufacturers’ performance and competition for the 2012 INDYCAR program and beyond,” Phillips said. “This will ensure they are competing within the rules defined by INDYCAR. I’m happy to have someone of Trevor’s experience join the team.”

Knowles has an extensive motorsport background with experience in INDYCAR, NASCAR and Formula One. He worked with Penske Racing and Evernham Motorsports in NASCAR and also with Honda Performance Development, helping develop the 2003-2006 Honda Indy V-8 engine and the Acura’s P2 engine for the American Le Mans Series.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 8 2011
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