JR Hildebrand has competed against Ed Carpenter on Verizon IndyCar Series ovals and road/street circuits since 2010. Now he'll join Ed Carpenter Racing for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 25.
Hildebrand, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year when he finished runner-up to Dan Wheldon, will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet-powered second entry for the team. Carpenter, the lone owner/driver in the series, will compete for a starting spot in the race for the 11th time. He was the 2013 Verizon P1 Award winner with a four-lap average speed of 228.762 mph on the 2.5-mile oval in the Fast Nine Shootout. Corporate partnership support for Hildebrand’s entry will be announced in the near future.
“JR has been the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and an Indy Lights champion, so his credentials are very impressive. It is great to have another American driver in the 500 this year and competing with ECR,” said Carpenter, who will drive the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka car in the six oval races on the schedule. “We believe a second car at Indy will assist us in preparing for a strong performance in this year’s Indy 500.”
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A second entry for the Indianapolis 500 is a first for the 3-year-old team. The Carpenter-Hildebrand combination currently is the only all-American team entered.
“I’m extremely excited to join Ed Carpenter Racing for this year’s Indianapolis 500,” said Hildebrand, 26, a native of Sausalito, Calif., who resides in Boulder, Colo. “Ed’s team has been very strong on the ovals the past two years, including winning at Fontana and taking the pole position at last year’s '500.' Working with Ed and his staff at Indy gives me a lot of confidence going into the world’s biggest race. I can’t wait to jump into the No. 21 Chevy and get back to the Speedway.”
Practice begins May 11, with qualifications scheduled for May 17-18. Under a revised format, the field of 33 will be determined the first day. All entries will contend for their starting positions the second day.
Hildebrand started 10th and finished 33rd (contact) in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 -- one of five races (best finish of fifth at Long Beach) driving for Panther Racing. He also competed in two races for Barracuda Racing. He has five top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He's led seven races for a total of 74 laps, and has been running at the finish in 31 of his 41 races. Hildebrand won the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights championship, posting four victories among 11 top-five finishes, and made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in 2010 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
With Carpenter contesting the oval races this season, Mike Conway will drive the No. 20 car in the 12 road/street course races. He tested March 17-18 at Barber Motorsports Park in preparation for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 28-30.