RLR/Andersen's Hildebrand Wins Firestone Indy Lights Race At Kansas Speedway Sunday KANSAS CITY, Kan., April 27 - Everything came together for RLR/Andersen Racing Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. After a year and a quarter of competing in...
RLR/Andersen's Hildebrand Wins Firestone Indy Lights Race At Kansas Speedway Sunday
KANSAS CITY, Kan., April 27 - Everything came together for RLR/Andersen Racing Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.
After a year and a quarter of competing in IndyCar's development series, the Palmetto, Fla.-based team led its first lap in the series and then 46 more to achieve its first Firestone Indy Lights victory ever.
Behind the wheel of the team's Allied Building Products No. 25 Dallara, series rookie J.R. Hildebrand of Indianapolis posted the victory in the 67-lap/100-mile Kansas Lottery 100. It was only the second oval-track race ever for the 20-year-old native of Sausalito, Calif.
Coupled with Hildebrand's second-place finish in the last race, held in St. Petersburg, Fla. on April 6, he is now leading the point standings going into the series' biggest race of the year, the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23.
Robbie Pecorari, a former Andersen Racing Star Mazda driver, finished second to Hildebrand on Sunday, just 0.0553 of a second behind for the eighth-closest finish in series history. He started next-to-last and improved 21 positions to post the greatest advance from start to finish in series history. Rounding out the podium finishers was Arie Luyendyk Jr.
RLR/Andersen's Andrew Prendeville of Las Vegas topped the charts in the morning practice session after SWE Pole Qualifying was cancelled due to cold temperatures. He took the green flag in 11th place with his Best Friends Animal Society No. 5 and vaulted into eighth right away.
Unfortunately Cyndie Allemann spun right in front of him with 25 laps down. Prendeville did everything he could to miss her, but he clipped her car, sending him into the Turn 2 wall of the 1.5-mile trioval. His car then careened across the track right in front of a pack of cars that miraculously missed him. Prendeville escaped uninjured, but his car was done for the day. He ended up 23rd in the final rundown with 25 laps completed for his Racing Laps for Best Friends program.
Hildebrand started fourth and ran in fourth or fifth for the first 14 laps. He passed Luyendyk for third on lap 15, and then got by Dillon Battistini for second on lap 19. His winning move came on the next lap when he overtook polesitter Richard Antinucci at the start/finish line. Luyendyk and then Pecorari did everything they could to make a pass stick, but Hildebrand was not to be denied the rest of the way. Pecorari was extremely close for the last eight laps after the final restart, but Hildebrand persevered to become the first American to win in this series so far this year.
There were five caution flags in all for a total of 30 laps. The first one was for a spin but the other four, including the one Prendeville was involved in, were for contact.
In addition to winning the race, RLR/Andersen Racing received the $1,000 Firestone Image Award as the team that best represented Firestone through its use of patches and decals on its cars, transporter, pit equipment and uniforms.
Earlier that day Hildebrand is scheduled to attend the second annual Developmental Preschool "Mini 500" at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, 5199 W. Fairview Rd. in Greenwood, Ind. His visit is intended to show support to these children, who are working hard to overcome physical, social and behavioral obstacles. A parade and a race are planned for the event, billed as "The Greatest Spectacle in Pre-School Racing." The media is encouraged to attend.
J.R. Hildebrand: "I'm so happy! It feels so good for the team; everybody has worked so hard. To be able to come away with a win in just the fourth race has put us in a really good spot in the championship. I didn't think our first win would come on an oval, but we'll take it and keep going with Indy coming up and the height of the season.
"I can't thank everyone at RLR/Andersen Racing enough. We've progressed and improved our finishing position with every race, and now I'm on the top step of the podium!
"My car was working better up high at first. I was able to go around the high side pretty easily. I had a big push behind other cars down at the bottom. With other cars around me, I was able to stick up on the high line and keep it flat around the top. I think Antinucci was having trouble staying low. So I tried to kind of pin him down there so he couldn't use any more of the track. Then I was able to kind of truck by on the outside, and then a caution came out.
"Once I was on my own, it seemed like being on the bottom is where it was going to happen. It makes it easier to keep people in check behind you if you're on the bottom, so that's why I was sticking it down there.
[About the laps after the last restart]: "I was probably looking backwards more than I was looking forward. Robbie raced me clean. The Allied Building Products car was good right at the bottom, so I was able to stay there and keep him behind me. We ended up pulling it off at the line."
Andrew Prendeville: "It happened in Turn 2.
"My car was inconsistent before that. It was pushing and then it was randomly loose. I got a good start, but then I struggled to stay close to the lead pack. I backed off to let my tires cool down to see what I could do in the next half of the race, but then someone spun in front of me and I couldn't miss it. Luckily no one hit me when I came back down off the wall and across the track.
"I'm very happy for our team. We've worked our tails off for the last year, and today it paid off; just not for me right now."
John Andersen (RLR/Andersen Racing co-owner): "It's the team's first victory in this series, so it's a nice reward for all the hard work and all the money we've been spending.
"We came into this series with good, experienced people but we were new to these cars and we were new to most of these tracks. Now that we've learned some things about these cars and we have experience at most of the tracks, I think we'll be very competitive going forward. I should note though that Kansas Speedway was new to us, as today was this series' first race here since 2004.
"Winning is an unbelievable feeling; it's the ultimate high. But I feel bad for Andrew, who got caught up in another driver's accident. We have the good and the bad of racing all under the same transporter here, but hopefully Andrew's day will come soon too."