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

Photo: IndyCar

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.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.