Yesterday, JR Hildebrand got back in an IndyCar, and today, his Giants could win the World Series

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Sometimes there’s one driver every offseason who hits the jackpot – and occasionally it happens to be a guy who didn’t have a full-time ride the previous season.

From 2011 into 2012, that driver was Simon Pagenaud. He starred in cameo appearances in IndyCar en route to a full-time ride with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in ’12, where he would then finish fifth in points and win rookie-of-the-year honors.

Last year, it was Ryan Briscoe. After a half-IndyCar, half-sports car career odyssey in 2013, Briscoe made it back to IndyCar full-time this year with Chip Ganassi Racing and additionally earned a role as a third driver with Corvette Racing in TUDOR United SportsCar Championship endurance races.

This year, it’s looking like it could be JR Hildebrand.

The up-and-coming American wasn’t fully able to capitalize on his potential in two and a half years with Panther Racing before his contract was determined after the 2013 Indianapolis 500. He punched above his weight in two starts with Bryan Herta Autosport later in 2013 and finished in the top-10 in his only IndyCar start this year, with Ed Carpenter Racing at this year’s ‘500.

On Monday, Hildebrand returned to an IndyCar for the first time since the ‘500 by taking over the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet driven by Carpenter (ovals) and Mike Conway (road/street courses) this past season.

Both he and Josef Newgarden had a chance to work together for the first time with the merged CFH Racing, and with their Chevrolet engines. This marked Hildebrand’s first road course appearance in an IndyCar since August 2013, at Sonoma, when Hildebrand made his last road or street start with BHA.

“INDYCAR is where I want to be and I’ve made no bones about letting it be known that I enjoyed my experience with ECR at Indy and wanting to continue that in whatever capacity,” he said, via IndyCar.com. “The team is here to bang through some things and start getting on the same page. I’m trying to help with that as much as possible and get back out here. It’s been a year and some change since I was in an IndyCar on a road course so it’s great to get back in the car and get up to speed quickly.”

Carpenter said in the same IndyCar.com piece that while he’d like to have Conway back, he wouldn’t enter into an agreement if he’d lose him for a couple races. As chronicled on MotorSportsTalk, at least three and likely five IndyCar/FIA World Endurance Championship conflicts are expected for 2015.

Meanwhile for Hildebrand, his hometown San Francisco Giants stand on the doorstep of their third MLB World Series championship in the last five years tonight. They now travel to Kansas City for Game 6 with a 3-2 lead.

So if Hildebrand’s Giants win the World Series, that’s one great piece of news in the bag. And with the possibility of a return to IndyCar looming, it could be two.

Worth noting it already has happened once before where the Giants won the World Series and Hildebrand got a ride the next year, when the Giants took the 2010 title and Hildebrand debuted with Panther Racing in 2011 (after 2 part-time cameos in 2010).

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.