Hildebrand Leaves Baltimore Grand Prix with a 19th-place Finish

J.R. Hildebrand, Panther Racing
J.R. Hildebrand, Panther Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

BALTIMORE, MD. (September 4, 2011) – An extended caution period in the middle of the Baltimore Grand Prix, combined with a late-race incident, forced National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand into a 19th-place finish in today’s 75-lap event. Hildebrand, who reached as high as sixth position on the same strategy as the lead cars, was done-in when a 10-lap caution period during the race allowed drivers on an alternate strategy to finish the race without having to make another pit stop.

The team qualified in the 19th position yesterday and gained two positions early today before the Hildebrand made his first pit stop, shortly before a caution period on Lap 32 for the stalled car of Tomas Scheckter. The race restarted for a single lap before Turn Three turned into a parking lot after contact between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe caused a multi-car pileup. Hildebrand survived the melee and came out in the eighth position. Having just pitted shortly before the two yellows, the team elected to stay out while multiple other cars pitted. Had the race resumed when expected, all of those cars would have required an additional pit stop, butafter a significant amount of oil from Marco Andretti’s car spilled onto the race course, the caution period lasted a total of 10 laps, which enabled all the cars that pitted early to have enough fuel to make it to the end.

The race finally restarted on Lap 49 and Hildebrand was able to quickly move from eighth to sixth position. The team elected to make its final pit stop on Lap 58, dropping the National Guard team back into the 16th position. With three laps remaining, Hildebrand got into the tire barrier in Turn One and after quickly returning to the field, had an issue that caused him to make contact with the concrete retaining wall just a few turns later, and dropped the No. 4 car into its final finishing position of 19th.

Team Penske driver Will Power scored a dominant victory and closed to within five points of current championship-leader Dario Franchitti with just three races remaining on the schedule. Power was joined on the podium by Newman/Haas driver Oriol Servia and KV Racing pilot Tony Kanaan, who overcame a frightening incident in the morning warm-up to score a podium finish.

Hildebrand is currently 15th in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings, and maintains his slim three-point lead in the Rookie of the Year battle over Newman/Haas driver James Hinchcliffe. There are three races remaining in the schedule for the two young stars to capture the honors for top rookie; the road course at Twin Ring Motegi, and oval races at Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The IZOD IndyCar Series will have a weekend off before traveling overseas to Twin Ring Motegi, where for the first time in series history the race will be held on the infield road course. Damage from the recent earthquake in Japan caused damage to the 1.5-mile oval where the IndyCar Series has raced since first making the trip overseas in 2003. The Indy Japan 300 will be broadcast live on VERSUS at 11:30 pm on Saturday, September 17th with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 and Sirius channel 212.

JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda: “We got duped a little bit by that long yellow, and then I made a mistake at the end of the race. I hit the brakes in the same spot where I had been in Turn One and was trying to downshift but ended up in the tires. I got going again and when I got back on track I was being cognizant of how the car was handling, but when I got going it just wouldn’t turn and I made contact with the wall. Really bummed for the National Guard Panther guys because they all worked so hard this weekend. Igotta say thanks to all the fans who came out this weekend, the place was ultra packed, and it’s great to have that kind of support for the IndyCar Series.”