Hildebrand Drives Through Toronto Carnage for Eighth-Place Finish
IZOD IndyCar Series Moves Up 14 Positions, Collects Fourth Top Ten Finish of the 2011 Season
National Guard Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand drove through the smoke of nearly every major accident duringSunday’s Honda Indy Toronto and collected an eighth-place finish, hiscareer-best finish on a road or street course event. Hildebrand suffered slight damage to the front wing of his No. 4 National Guard entry on the way to another Top Ten finish in what was an accident-filled, but thrilling, 85-lap IZOD IndyCar Series event on the Streets of Toronto.
The National Guard team remains in the ninth position in the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship, but now has a 20-point lead over tenth-place Alex Tagliani. Hildebrand also extended his lead in the Rookie of the Year battle, which he now leads by a total of 35 points over James Hinchcliffe going into next weekend’s race in Edmonton. This is Hildebrand’s second-straight Top Ten finish in a non-oval event and his second consecutive Top Ten finish after a fourth-place result two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway.
After starting 22nd, Hildebrand quickly passed Danica Patrick and Takuma Sato into Turn Three on the first restart of the race, and from there it was a matter of avoiding carnage in front of him. On Lap 48 he was in the middle of an accident involving Paul Tracy and three other cars, and managed to get through unscathed. Then again, on Lap 77, as he’d moved inside the Top Ten, the exit of Turn One got blocked when there was contact between Oriol Servia, Justin Wilson, Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Mike Conway. Hildebrand made contact with the back of Wilson’s No. 22 car, but the damage to his front wing was not significant enough to slow down the No. 4 car.
In 10 starts this season he has collected four Top Ten and two Top Five finishes.
Hildebrand has improved his finishing position relative to where hequalified by a total of 51 positions in his five road/street course starts; St. Pete (+13), Barber (+2), Long Beach (+10), Brazil (+12) and now Toronto (+14). Hildebrand has also completed all of the possible 415 laps held this season on road and street courses.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda: “I think I was literally inches away from every major crash that happened today. And I could tell right from the get-go that I had the speed for some of the guys in front of me. My mentality very quickly, once we startedgetting the yellows, was that the guys in front of me were going to crash and if I can just avoid getting passed that I was going to be good. I ended up getting passed a few times, but I gained a multitude of positions by being able to avoid big accidents. The National Guard guys did an awesome job in the pits today; the best pit stops we’ve had all year. We stayed out of trouble and got what the car was giving us. As a team we can walk away happy with this based upon how it’s been going so far, and we learned a lot that we can take with us to other road and street courses moving forward.
(on dodging specific crashes) “The biggest ‘oh crap’ moment was when Tracy hit those guys going into Turn Three, and it was full-on melee; cars’ sideways going 160 mph down the back-straight, tire smoke everywhere – it was full-on ‘Days of Thunder’ and ‘Go High, Cole’ stuff. I thought I was going to have to go high around it all, but a hole opened up on the inside. There was all kinds of stuff going on, and I shot that gap on the inside, which ended up being the right call. That was about as crazy at it got for me during the event, for sure. The big one in (Turn One) the track was just blocked and the question was just if I could stop in time, and if I was going to crash or not. I could tell it wasn’t going to be big either way, but it was just a matter of how much damage we’re going to have on the car.”
By: panther racing