SONOMA, California- (August 26 2012) – Hometown boy JR Hildebrand and the Panther Racing team were able to battle a fuel-rig malfunction during their first pit stop to finish eighth in Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma after starting the race in 15th. Hildebrand pitted on Lap 22 from 12th position, but a closed valve in the fuel-hose was shut for much of the stop, short-filling Hildebrand’s National Guard Chevy.
“We had a little bit of a fueling issue during the first stop, which was really a bummer because we had to end up making an extra pit stop and it threw our strategy off for the day,” Hildebrand explained. “But at the end of the day we were able to put the pedal to the metal to catch up and get ourselves back on the lead lap. We were like ten seconds back, you know a lap down, so we caught up a bunch of time and we were really able to get good use out of our red tires.”
The short-fill forced Hildebrand to pit early following his next stint for fuel on Lap 31, and again on Lap 52. An incident involving Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud brought out a yellow flag, allowing Hildebrand to pit under caution on Lap 64. Hildebrand rejoined on the lead lap in tenth position and was able to save enough fuel during the extended caution period to finish the race.
With the result, Hildebrand moved to 11th in the IndyCar Series championship standings with just two races remaining on the schedule.
Panther and Hildebrand were able to gain two positions during the closing laps, giving the team a solid Top Ten finish. The eighth place finish at Sonoma marks Panther Racing’s sixth Top Ten finish this season and is Hildebrand’s best career finish at his home town track.
“Given what we’ve been going through this weekend,” JR continued. “We made some really significant improvements to the car. Based on the fact that we did have to make an extra pit stop we had to work really hard to get to the Top Ten. The boys did a really great job, and it’s nice to finally have a single digit finish back at home, I’m definitely happy.”