EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada- (July 21, 2012) – Replacing a broken wing on the first lap of most any IZOD IndyCar Series race normally wouldn’t plague the final result, but a caution-less race on Edmonton’s City Centre Airport saddled JR Hildebrand and the National Guard Panther Racing team with a 21st-place finish. Hildebrand had contact with Charlie Kimball on the opening lap of Sunday’s Edmonton Indy, and despite staying on the lead lap after the Panther crew replaced the front nose cone, no caution flag flew for the entire 75-lap race, leaving the National Guard team to play catch up all day.
“It was all just jammed up at the beginning and I was trying to be aggressive to make sure I didn’t lose any spots, but I was stuck on the outside in a pretty bad position,” JR recounted. “The 83 in front of me checked up a bunch because he was pushing in the middle of the corner and I got into the back of him and broke the wing on the National Guard Chevy. We made the right call to just come straight in and pit, because in the event a yellow comes out you catch back up and you’re right on sequence, but it just never happened.”
Despite two flawless pits stops by the Panther pit crew during the remainder of the race, Hildebrand was never able to make up much time on the lead pack, and instead spent a majority of the race turning laps by himself. Late in the event he was able to finally catch and pass both Simona de Silvestro and Ed Carpenter, but there was ultimately too much ground to be made up on the frontrunners of the race.
“I could see the back half of the top ten during various points in the race, and we weren’t losing them,” Hildebrand continued. “But to be honest, the biggest thing this weekend is that through practice and qualifying, we had exhausted the options we had and kept coming back to the same thing. Our team and the Panther DRR guys made a decision to try some things on the setup and see if they’d work out. We accomplished that goal in terms of understanding what we need to be doing to get the most out of this tire on this particular car.”
Team Chevy driver Helio Castroneves had a spirited duel with Takuma Sato for a majority of the last third of the race, and eventually captured the race victory. Sato secured the runner-up position and another Chevrolet-powered driver, Will Power, rounded out the podium on the day.
“We felt like we figured some things out today,” JR concluded. “And right now at this point in the season that’s the most important thing given where we’re at.”