JR Hildebrand very nearly secured his debut win in the Verizon IndyCar Series at the Iowa Corn Indy 300.
The Ed Carpenter Racing driver ran in the top five all race long, and clever pit strategy saw him emerge from the final pit stops with a chance at victory. His No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet team pitted him a little early, allowing him a chance to run for several laps on fresh tires. That move saw him jump ahead of the other leaders after they pitted.
Although he technically wasn’t the leader at that point, with Marco Andretti running long in hopes of catching a caution, Hildebrand was the de facto leader ahead of Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves. However, Hildebrand got balked behind Andretti when he made a move for the lead, which allowed Castroneves to get a run and move passed in the final laps.
Although Hildebrand tried to close back in, he couldn’t quite move through traffic as well as Castroneves and had to settle for second, just under four seconds behind at the checkered flag.
However, despite missing out on victory, Hildebrand felt very positive about his run.
“It feels good. Under slightly different circumstances we could have won,” the 29-year-old told NBCSN’s Anders Krohn afterward. “Great call to pit early and try to hustle back to the lead. If we’d been on equal tires I think we could have been there. I’m so excited to be back on the podium and (the team) deserved it after the weekend we had. Hopefully this sets up for the stretch run.”
The second-place finish is Hildebrand’s second podium of the year (he finished third at the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix) and ties his career-best finish (second place, 2011 Indianapolis 500).