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IndyCar 2017 driver review: JR Hildebrand

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. American JR Hildebrand made a welcome return to full-time action, but struggled more often than not in an ultimate one-and-done season with Ed Carpenter Racing.

JR Hildebrand, No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 23rd place (2 starts), Best Finish 6th, Best Start 15th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 4 Laps Led, 15.5 Avg. Start, 14.0 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 15th place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 42 Laps Led, 15.2 Avg. Start, 13.6 Avg. Finish

There was a lot of optimism around JR Hildebrand at the start of the year upon his welcome and deserved return to a full-time ride in IndyCar for the first time in five years. Sadly by the end of the year, with revisionist history, it appears the optimism was misguided after Hildebrand endured a challenging season thanks to a variety of factors, and now sees him sidelined after just one season.

Hildebrand, who’s an adjunct professor at Stanford and deferred his MIT enrollment and new engineer Justin Taylor, an Audi LMP1 sports car veteran, presented a pairing that on paper was high on fresh ideas and IQ points. The meeting of the minds though resulted in IndyCar setups that were largely outside the box, and rarely paid dividends in terms of actual finishes.

With the baseline ECR setup on ovals from 2016, Hildebrand shone brightest. A brilliant third place occurred at Phoenix, and came only a week after missing Barber with a broken bone in his left hand. Similarly at Iowa, he was unlucky to lose the pole because Will Power beat his time going out last, and then lost the race win in traffic before finishing second to Helio Castroneves. Other oval races saw missed opportunities, with a penalty at Indianapolis and crashes at Pocono and Gateway – although neither was Hildebrand’s fault.

Somewhat surprisingly those two podium finishes were Hildebrand’s only top-10 finishes all year, and the gambles on road and street courses didn’t come good. Spencer Pigot out-qualified him in seven of the 10 races they were teammates. Granted there were a couple times Hildebrand got unlucky, running deeper into a fuel stint and then getting caught out by a yellow flag, but those were few and far between.

It was disappointing that the Hildebrand/Taylor tandem didn’t pay off in the way ECR might have hoped. And more disconcertingly for Hildebrand, now 29, having been afforded a second full-time chance, he may not get another one from here.

Dakar Rally Stage 13: Carlos Sainz has second overall victory in sight

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Editor’s note: Check out expanded video highlights of Stage 13 Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Carlos Sainz is nearing his second Dakar Rally victory while Nasser Al-Attiyah strengthened his bid for second by winning Friday’s 13th stage of the endurance race.

Sainz finished sixth in his Team Peugeot ride and holds a lead of 46:18 over Al-Attiyah’s Toyota.

“I tried to play it safe, even if there were plenty of tricky parts,” said Sainz, who won the Dakar Rally in 2010 but had failed to finish the past five races because of mechanical problems. “Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. It’s not a crazy Dakar, but it’s very difficult. I hope everything will go OK (Saturday).”

Defending race winner Stephane Peterhansel is in fourth overall, trailing by 1:28:08 after crashing and finishing 20th in the penultimate stage. The Frenchman has a record 13 overall wins in the Dakar but is unlikely to earn another despite rebounding well from a crash in the seventh stage that had knocked him from the overall lead.

In other divisions, Eduard Nikolaev (trucks), Matthias Walkner (motorcycles), Ignacio Casale (Quads) and Reinaldo Varela (SxS UTV) are on the cusp of capturing overall wins entering the final stage.

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STAGE 13 RESULTS, CARS

  1. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota, 5:02:22
  2. Argentina’s Lucio ALvarez, Toyota, 5:13:38
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, Toyota: 5:15:28
  4. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, X-Raid, 5:17:29
  5. Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, X-Raid, 5:21:46

OVERALL 

  1. Spain’s Carlos Sainz
  2. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, 46:18 behind
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, 1:20:00 behind
  4. France’s Stephane Peterhansel, 1:28:08 behind
  5. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, 2:46:32 behind

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TRUCKS

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, 5:59:02
  2. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:59:52
  3. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, Tatra, 6:05:08
  4. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 6:26:47
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 6:31:56

OVERALL 

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev
  2. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 3:53:59 behind
  3. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:21:05
  4. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, 9:01:18
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 10:04:29

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MOTORCYCLES

  1. Australia’s Toby Price, KTM, 4:48:33
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, Honda, 4:50:36
  3. France’s Antoine Meo, KTM, 4:51:17
  4. Austria’s Matthias Walkner, KTM, 5:00:05
  5. Spain’s Juan Pedrero Garcia, 5:03:45

AMERICAN RIDERS

15th: Mark Samuels (Honda), 5:19:40

18th: Shane Esposito (KTM), 5:27:14

37th: Andrew Short (Husqvarna), 5:58:14

68th: Bill Conger (Husqvarna), 7:16:00

OVERALL 

  1. Austria’s Matthias Walkner
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, 22:31 behind
  3. Australia’s Toby Price, 27:45
  4. France’s Antoine Meo, 50:17
  5. Spain’s Gerard Farres, 1:01:19

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QUADS

  1. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 5:55:16
  2. Paraguay’s Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano, 5:58:34
  3. Chile’s Ignacio Casale, 5:59:19
  4. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 6:02:22
  5. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 6:02:23

OVERALL

  1. Chile’s Ignacio Casale
  2. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 1:37:16 behind
  3. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 2:05:12
  4. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 4:25:26
  5. Peru’s Alexis Hernandez, 4:34:37

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SxS UTV

  1. France’s Patricie Garrouste, Polaris, 6:29:40
  2. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, Can-Am, 6:39:39
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, Polaris, 7:33:17
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, Polaris, 7:41:200

OVERALL 

  1. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela
  2. France’s Patricie Garroueste, 53:28 behind
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, 10:02:12
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, 10:06:01

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SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Champions in all five classes will be crowned Saturday after the 14th and final stage concludes in Cordoba, Argentina.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

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