JR Hildebrand: “I just got loose and I was trying to stay on the outside while giving (James Hinchcliffe) enough room to pull out..."
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Panther Racing concluded the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 with drivers Townsend Bell and JR Hildebrand finishing in the 27th and 33rd positions, respectively. Bell was able to lead the race, marking the third time in the last six seasons that Panther has led the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Bell was continually able to make good fuel mileage on each stint, yet remain with the race leaders; positioning him well for a run to the finish. However, his luck changed on lap 147 when he was forced to pit abruptly, and off-sequence, to repair a loose engine cover.
Despite the setback, Bell stayed on the lead lap and with the leaders until gettingloose and making contact with the wall in Turn 2. Bell was able to drive the Sunoco Chevy back to the pits and the Panther crew quickly replaced a broken toe link and got Bell back on track for the finish, eight laps down.
Hildebrand started the race a career-best tenth in the race, but spun while passing James Hinchcliffe on the exit of Turn One and made contact with the outside retaining wall. The former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year was uninjured in the accident, but finished in the 33rd position as the No. 4 National Guard car was too damaged to continue.
The IndyCar Series will now travel to Michigan for the Chevrolet Indy Duel in Detroit, the first double-headerrace weekend on the schedule. The races will be held each day of the weekend at 3:30 pm (ET) and broadcast live on ABC starting at 12 pm (ET) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM/Sirius Channel 211. Practice, qualifying and race coverage is also available on the IndyCar Mobile app from Verizon.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet: “I just got loose and I was trying to stay on the outside while giving (James Hinchcliffe) enough room to pull out. I just got loose and saved it once. But couldn't save it twice and at that point it just went around. I feel terrible for the guys.
We worked really hard on having a race car that we thought we could run up to the front with. We needed to get through the first stint to see that happen. I'm not sure, given the situation, there was much I was going be able to do at that point. It's so unfortunate, obviously here on Memorial Day weekend with the National Guard. We were set up for a good day. Just really disappointed.”
Townsend Bell, No. 60 Sunoco “Turbo” Chevrolet: "It was a pretty tough day for us. I knew it was going to be super competitive and it was. I got a few guys on the start, lost a little bit on the first pit stop, and then kind of battled back through. I think we were as high as 10th at one point and kind of worked our way up there and then the engine cover came loose.
It started messing with the balance and I looked in the mirror and saw the engine cover cracking way open. So there was some confusion as to whether or not we had to pit and I was really lucky that we didn't crash with (Ryan) Briscoe coming into the pits because I was indecisive.
Then we got the engine cover back on and went back out and I guess we were still on the lead lap. I couldn't believe it. I thought we were done for the day, but we kept pushing hard and still with the leaders.
Then I just flat lost it in Turn 2, following Simona (De Silvestro). I just got loose and saved it all the way up to the fence, ran out of room, clipped the right rear tire on the wall, and broke the rear toe link.
It about got away from me in a big way coming down the back straight away. So I had to slow way down. Then I lost a bunch of laps and my race was pretty much done at that point.
The guys fixed the car, I was really proud of them, and pit stops were solid all day. It was a tough race which means you can't have any mistakes and we did, so we're just lucky to finish that one in one piece.”