LONG BEACH, Calif. – A seemingly innocuous bit of contact between Mikhail Aleshin and JR Hildebrand on the 85th and final lap of today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the second race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, has left Hildebrand with a broken bone in his left hand and not yet cleared to drive.
Aleshin and Hildebrand collided and it knocked the Sausalito, Calif. native, back for his first full season in the series for the first time since 2012, into the runoff. Hildebrand’s car got airborne briefly when trying to overtake Aleshin, and then slid into the runoff.
Hildebrand, driver of the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing retired from the race at that point and Aleshin was docked one position for blocking.
In a statement, INDYCAR medical director Dr. Geoffrey Billows said Hildebrand will be re-evaluated upon his return to Indianapolis this week and has not been cleared to drive.
“At the end of the race, we all were bunched back up because of that last yellow,” Hildebrand explained. “I was on reds and had a little bit for at least the handful of cars in front of us. On the last lap, I was making a move on Mikhail Aleshin and I could tell he was struggling.
“I was out of push-to-pass so I was trying to make a proper, full-out pass down he front straightaway. He had been starting to move over, not a major blocking maneuver but enough to assert his line. He hit the brake a lot earlier than I was expecting and I ended up running into the back of him.
“In doing so, it ripped the steering wheel from my hand and I ended up tweaking it. At the end of the day, to come home with an 11th place finish isn’t terrible. It is a bummer though as we were certainly on our way to finishing in the Top 10 and now we are in a bit of a jam going forward. Hopefully I can get back to it here before the next race.”
The contact was Aleshin’s second of the day, the first of which occurred with Tony Kanaan and left the Brazilian with a flat left rear tire.
A less than pleased Kanaan took to Twitter shortly thereafter, as this was his second contact with Aleshin in as many races.