IndyCar Series Rookie Overcomes Late Tire Puncture, Green-Flag Stop for Result
LONG BEACH, California – (April 17, 2011) – Panther Racing and National Guard driver JR Hildebrand improved a total of 10 positions Sunday in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to collect a 17th-place finish in the No. 4 entry. Hildebrand, who started 27th, overcame a tire puncture late in the race, and an additional green-flag pit stop, to climb up the grid in his first career IZOD IndyCar Series start on the Streets ofLong Beach.
Hildebrand was in 19th position when on Lap 67 contact between Takuma Sato,Sebastian Saavedra, Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball in Turn Eight covered the track with carbon debris. Hildebrand made contact with some of the debris, which caused a puncture to his right front tire, forcing the team to enter a closed pit to change the tire. By rule, the team was then forced to make a full stop when the pits were opened, which sent Hildebrand to the end of the line.
After the field restarted on Lap 70, Hildebrand was running 16th and felt he had an issue with his rear tires and the team elected to pit him under green to ensure there were no serious problems. He returned to the field in 17th position but was too far after the stop to advance his position any further. Andretti Autosport driver Mike Conway, who tested for Panther in 2008, won his first career IZOD IndyCar Series race and was joined on the podium by Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe and Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti.
The IZOD IndyCar Series will take a week off before traveling to Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle. The race will be broadcast live on VERSUS on Sunday, May 1st at 12:00 pm (EST) with additional coverage provided by the IMS Radio Network, XM Channel 145 and Sirius Channel 121.
JR Hildebrand, No. 4 National Guard Dallara Honda:
“I was really happy for the National Guard guys that we were able to hang in there and push to the end and I was able to rip off some of my fastest laps right there at the end of the race, and I felt like that was a good way to end it. (On hitting the debris on Lap 67) The coast was pretty much clear by the time I got down there and I just ended up running over a piece of debris and it just instantly destroyed the right-front tire. I got lucky because there were other guys having similar problems and it was if suddenly there was oil slick on the track because guys were going off right and left as they ran over stuff, which forced me to drive a little bit slower until I realized I had a serious issue. Then we had to pit again because we entered a closed pit and ended up at the end of the line, and following that I took back off and thought I had an issue with one of the rear tires and then pitted again under green. For me personally and for us as a group we just need to take what we can from this weekend and learn as much as we can going to Brazil, because that’s not going to be too much different.”