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JR Hildebrand confirmed as Ed Carpenter Racing’s full-time driver

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Josef Newgarden said Ed Carpenter Racing had a would-be full-time driver waiting in the wings already in its arsenal earlier this year in test driver JR Hildebrand.

And with Newgarden’s departure to Team Penske, the spot in the No. 21 ECR Chevrolet opened up and the logical replacement was right there.

On Friday, Hildebrand has been officially confirmed in that seat, and will make his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series field full-time for the first time since 2012.

Although he has raced in seven consecutive seasons since making his debut in 2010, only his 2011 and 2012 seasons with Panther Racing were full-time. He’s raced only 12 times since in the last four years, with only five starts in the last three years – all at the Indianapolis 500 or the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

“Honestly, I just couldn’t be more ready to get started!” Hildebrand said. “I’ve been close to, but still outside of, this role for long enough to really understand and embrace the opportunity to be back in the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time.”

“The relationship I’ve had with Ed Carpenter and ECR has honed my determination to get back in the seat because of how confident I feel in what we could do together. Now, I’m here to make it happen.  I feel like I’ve got something to prove and can’t think of a better place to do it.”

With the Juan Pablo Montoya domino falling earlier this week that he’d be continuing with Team Penske in a fifth car for the Indianapolis 500 and whatever potential sports car program that team may assemble, it all-but-assured Hildebrand would be in the No. 21 car next year.

Carpenter, who is yet to fill the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for the road and street races but will drive the six oval races (the team termed that “the road and street course program for the car is still under consideration”), has hailed Hildebrand’s role within the team.

“We first started talking about this in 2013 and the timing has just now worked to give JR an opportunity to show what he can do with a full-time ride.” Carpenter said. “The job that he has done for the team each time we have put him in a car the past three years has proven to us that he is the right man for the job.”

“Whether it has been his role with the team during the past three 500s or the testing he has done for us over the past two years, he consistently shows he deserves a full-time opportunity. I am confident that JR will shine in the 21 car and that ECR will continue to post the results we have grown to expect.”

It’s been quite a couple weeks for Hildebrand, having also married longtime girlfriend Kristin Paine late last month.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.