Hildebrand Signs With Carpenter

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 4 2016
JR Hildebrand will take over for Josef Newgarden at Ed Carpenter Racing.

JR Hildebrand will take over for Josef Newgarden at Ed Carpenter Racing.

Declaring he has “something to prove,” JR Hildebrand will contest the full 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing in the No. 21 Chevrolet vacated by fellow-American Josef Newgarden.

“Honestly, I just couldn’t be more ready to get started,” said Hildebrand, 28, a key member of ECR the past three years during the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I’ve been close to, but still outside of, this role for long enough to really understand and embrace the opportunity to be back in the Verizon IndyCar Series fulltime.

“The relationship I’ve had with Ed Carpenter and ECR has honed my determination to get back in the seat because of how confident I feel in what we could do together. Now I’m here to make it happen.  I feel like I’ve got something to prove and can’t think of a better place to do it.”

A native of Sausalito, Calif., Hildebrand began karting at age 14. After winning the Indy Lights championship in 2009, Hildebrand raced fulltime for Panther Racing in 2011 and 2012. Hildebrand joined Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2014 Indianapolis 500, the first time the team expanded to two cars. In what was his only race of the year, Hildebrand finished 10th. He returned to the team in 2015, running both the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road-course and the Indy 500 on the 2.5-mile oval. His eighth-place finish in the 500 was the best of ECR’s three-car effort.

ECR again brought Hildebrand in for both 2016 races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he finished sixth in the 100th edition of the Indy 500 _ his best result since a runnerup effort in his rookie year of 2011. When Newgarden was injured during the rain-plagued Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in June, Hildebrand stepped in to assume testing duties of the No. 21 throughout the summer. One week after Hildebrand refined the setup of the car during a test at Iowa Speedway, Newgarden won after leading 282 of 300 laps.

Free-agent Newgarden since has joined Team Penske’s four-car armada, led by reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud of France, as the fulltime replacement for two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia.

“We first started talking about this in 2013 and the timing has just now worked to give JR an opportunity to show what he can do with a fulltime ride,” said Carpenter, ECR’s owner/driver. “The job that he has done for the team each time we have put him in a car the past three years has proven to us that he is the right man for the job.

“Whether it has been his role with the team during the past three 500s or the testing he has done for us over the past two years, he consistently shows he deserves a fulltime opportunity. I am confident that JR will shine in the No. 21 car and that ECR will continue to post the results we have grown to expect.”

Hildebrand’s resume is marked by the infamous ending of the 2011 Indy 500. Hildebrand was leading “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on the 200th and final lap when he crashed into the outside wall exiting Turn 4, handing an improbable second victory to Englishman Dan Wheldon. Ironically, Hildebrand was injured in the fiery, October 2011 crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in which Wheldon was killed.

Formed in late 2011, ECR entered the Verizon IndyCar Series fulltime in 2012. Over the past five seasons, ECR has scored seven wins. The team has proven its versatility by winning on each type of track the series competes on _ street and road-courses, short ovals and speedways. Carpenter captured back-to-back pole positions at the 2013 and 2014 Indianapolis 500s and Newgarden started in the middle of the front row last May. The Speedway, Ind.-based team has 21 top-five finishes to-date, 15 of which have been podiums.

Outside of racing, Hildebrand has a passion for using motorsports to inspire students in STEM subject areas, recently working on a virtual reality project to create Indy car-focused educational programming. In early 2016, Stanford University appointed Hildebrand as an adjunct lecturer, where he primarily works with the Stanford Revs Program developing autonomous vehicle technology.

Hildebrand was accepted into MIT out of high school, but deferred admission to pursue a career as a professional racing driver.

Hildebrand will be joined by Carpenter, the series’ only owner/driver, during six scheduled oval-track races next year. Carpenter will continue to drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra-Premium Vodka Chevrolet on ovals while the road and street course program for the car remains under consideration.  The 2017 season will open on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 12.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 4 2016
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