RLR/Andersen's Herrington Finishes 10th Sunday at Chicagoland; Hildebrand Ends Up Fifth in Championship JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 7 - RLR/Andersen Racing's Daniel Herrington battled back from the rear of the field after an early spin to finish tenth...
RLR/Andersen's Herrington Finishes 10th Sunday at Chicagoland; Hildebrand Ends Up Fifth in Championship
JOLIET, Ill., Sept. 7 - RLR/Andersen Racing's Daniel Herrington battled back from the rear of the field after an early spin to finish tenth in the SunRichGourmet.com 100 Firestone Indy Lights season finale at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday. The Palmetto, Fla.-based team's other driver in the series, J.R. Hildebrand, was involved in an accident with his Allied Building Products No. 25 on lap seven of the 67-lap/100-mile race and ended up 22nd, but he still finished fifth in the point standings in his rookie season in the IndyCar Series' official development series.
Herrington, of Winston-Salem, N.C., started fifth in the Andersen Racing No. 5 Dallara, but he spun going into Turn 2 on the first lap. Despite the problem he was actually very lucky, as he didn't hit the wall and even though the bulk of the 24-car field had to avoid him, no one hit him either. Dillon Battistini and Wade Cunningham weren't as lucky, as they had contact a little further back in the field and were forced to retire from the race.
Due to the spin, Herrington pitted for a new right-rear Firestone Firehawk tire. Thanks to the quick RLR/Andersen pit crew he didn't lose a lap, but he was 22nd for the restart on lap seven instead of fifth.
Hildebrand started 19th but the Sausalito, Calif.-based driver was already 14th for that restart. His usual hard-charging drive ended abruptly at that point, however. "It just snapped loose," he said afterwards of the accident, which wiped out the right side of his car when he hit the outside SAFER barrier between Turns 1 and 2 of the 1.52-mile trioval. Luckily he wasn't hurt.
That left Herrington to carry on for the team, which he did from the 19th starting spot for the third restart on lap 13. He was sandwiched between Brent Sherman and Cyndie Allemann for a good portion of the race, and then swapped spots several times with Micky Gilbert. Sherman was particularly strong, as he set the fastest lap of the race with a lap that was 3 miles per hour faster than the one that won the pole.
Herrington had further battles with Jonny Reid, Pablo Donoso, Tom Dyer and Robbie Pecorari, and by lap 55 he was back in the top 10. Two lap before that he set his fastest lap of the race with a 28.4356 (192.43 miles per hour) while battling Mike Potekhen and Reid, which was faster than his qualifying times.
He passed Gilbert for ninth on lap 58 but a couple of laps later he was back in 12th as the pack shuffled positions. He got ninth again on lap 62 after Dyer spun in Turn 2. He had to take evasive action shortly thereafter to avoid two drivers who touched, but his patience was rewarded with a top-10 finish at the end.
With a last-lap pass Arie Luyendyk Jr. recorded his first victory in 62 starts, while Raphael Matos won the Firestone Firehawk Cup points championship. He won by 32 points, the third-closest final point margin in the series' history.
Daniel Herrington: "For the start, I was going two wide because I thought that would be OK. Someone else, I don't know who it was, wanted to go three wide. I don't think [James] Davison saw him. The yellow car might have touched me but I don't know that for sure. I'm just glad I walked away from it. When I was spinning and the whole field was passing me, I was just thinking 'Don't hit the wall!'
"We had to come in to change the right-rear tire, but luckily we didn't lose a lap. I started passing cars again, and raced my way to the front of the second group, and then just sort of sat there for while. When we got a train going there wasn't much you could do to pass.
"Eventually with the help of some yellows I was able to move up some more. Then near the end Bobby Wilson and somebody else touched, so I backed off and probably gave away a couple spots because of that.
"My car was very loose for the first half of the race, but it got better as the tires wore down a bit. I had a whole lot of things to deal with today handling-wise, and I learned a lot.
"When you qualify fifth you think you can get on the podium or even win, so when you drop back to the rear right away it's really frustrating.
"My plan was to be very patient for the first half of the race. I'm not sure that was everyone else's plan though. I just wanted to get through the race and gain experience, but I was racing with guys that had points on the line, so they had a different approach."
J.R. Hildebrand: "It just snapped loose and I couldn't catch it. It happened between Turns 1 and 2. I was on the high side, trying to pass a slower car on the restart. Then it snapped loose, and I was trying hard not to hit the other car and I just ran out of room. It tore up the right side of the car.
"I'd like to thank the team for all their hard work this year, and to Allied for coming out and getting involved."
John Andersen: (Team co-owner and Firestone Indy Lights team manager): "Our entire team improved from last year. We've established ourselves as one of the top-tier teams in this series, and we'll work hard to continue to improve.
"We're a little disappointed with our results here, but finishing fifth in the championship was a huge improvement. Last year our top car was 13th at the end of the year. We also won our first race in this series this year.
"J.R. did a great job in his rookie season. I think as a team we did a good job for our sponsor, Allied.
"We'll learn from our mistakes and hopefully move up even higher next year."