J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing pick up Indy 500 sponsor

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Ed Carpenter Racing announced this morning in St. Petersburg that they’ve landed a sponsor for its second Indianapolis 500 entry piloted by American racer J.R. Hildebrand.

Preferred Freezer Services will be the backer of Hildebrand’s No. 21 Chevrolet for the 98th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing on May 25.

The company specializes in “temperature-controlled refrigerated warehouse storage and logistics.”

“This unique and innovative company is a leader in its field and gives Ed Carpenter Racing a new partner for the world’s biggest race,” Carpenter said in a team statement.

“We believe the bright blue and white paint scheme and the legendary Polar Bear logo will be a fan favorite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May, but will more importantly represent an innovative and successful partnership that will deliver tremendous value to our partners at Preferred Freezer Services.”

Carpenter, a native and resident of Indianapolis, and Hildebrand, a California native now residing in Colorado, are currently the only all-American driving tandem set to compete in this year’s “500.”

Last year at Indy, Carpenter sat on pole but a recurring handling issue on his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevy kept him from mounting a challenge in the second half of the race and he had to settle for a 10th place finish.

As for Hildebrand, he was the first driver to exit the race after crashing on Lap 4. Shortly after that setback, he was released by Panther Racing; he would return for the Sonoma and Fontana races with Bryan Herta Autosport.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”