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).
Follow Kyle Lavigne.
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.