JR Hildebrand will go drift racing later this year

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JR Hildebrand’s been known to light the tires before when driving or testing some American muscle cars. Now the third year Panther Racing driver will have a chance to put that practice into race situations later this year, in Formula Drift.

Hildebrand will race with Tyler McQuarrie’s drift team at two IndyCar off weekends, Seattle July 19-20 and Irwindale Oct. 11-12. The friendship came together via their mutual relationship with sponsor GoPro, and the No. 6 Chevrolet Camaro will also be sponsored by Mobil 1.

“I’m pumped to join Tyler with his Camaro program and to get into Formula D,” Hildebrand said. “Since as early as 2004 I’ve thought drifting was an awesome and unique area of motorsport, so I’m very excited to finally get involved myself.”

It’s been a less than stellar start to his IndyCar season, with an accident in St. Petersburg and 17th in Barber – both from just 24th spot on the grid.

With one of three races in California up next for IndyCar, Hildebrand looks to reverse his luck in his home state. The Northern California native finished fifth at last year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after a similarly frustrating first two races.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “