FIRST RACE OF 2017 SEASON COMPLETE FOR ED CARPENTER RACING
Hildebrand Gains Six Positions to Finish 13th; Pigot’s Promising Run Cut Short By Brake Fire
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 12, 2017) – Race Notes
– What started off as a promising day for Spencer Pigot was cut short after a brake fire following his first stint in today’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. After racing his way from 13th to 5th, Pigot dropped 16 laps behind the leader when the crew was forced to change the outside rear brake rotor after the fire. JR Hildebrand was caught in a first-lap incident that dropped him to the back of the field early, but he persevered to gain six positions over his qualifying spot to finish 13th.
– Historically, cars have been known to make contact at the beginning of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and today was no different. Hildebrand started 19th and damaged his front wing as he tried to avoid three cars that made contact in front of him. His rear tire was also cut, allowing him to make a stop in a closed pit lane for repairs without penalty. After changing the front wing and all four Firestone Firehawks, he made an additional stop when the pits were open for fuel. The No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka crew was able to keep Hildebrand on the lead lap and he rejoined the race in 15th.
– Pigot was able to avoid the Lap 1 incident and moved up to 10th. His charge forward started with a pristine pass over defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud. Over the first 26 laps, he raced his way past four more cars at a track notoriously difficult for passing before making his first pit stop from the 5th position.
– Debris on the track caused the second caution on Lap 26. As Pigot entered the pit lane on the following lap, smoke started to pour from the overheated brakes on the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. When Pigot stopped, the outside rear brake assembly and wheel caught on fire. The No. 20 crew changed the rotor and Pigot was able to re-enter the race, but had fallen 16 laps behind the leaders.
– Hildebrand, who had stopped five laps prior to the caution, did not come in under the yellow. He vaulted forward as other cars stopped, moving up to 5th. He spent the majority of the stint running comfortably in the 8th position, making his next stop after running 30 laps on a set of red tires. After stopping on Lap 51 for sticker black tires, he cycled back out in the 15th position.
– Without the possibility of gaining any more positions, on Lap 71 Pigot retired from the race. He was credited with a 20th place finish in his first race as a veteran Indy car driver. He made his debut in the 2016 edition of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
– Hildebrand made his final pit stop on Lap 80 and managed his fuel wisely enough to make it to the end of the 110-lap race. He finished the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the 13th position, six spots higher than his starting position of 19th. It was Hildebrand’s first street circuit race since 2013.
– The Verizon IndyCar Series next heads to the streets of Long Beach, Calif. for the 43rd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The race will take place on Sunday, April 9 with a live broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 4 p.m. ET.
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “The race was going really well! The Fuzzy’s Vodka guys did an awesome job preparing the car for the race and making a few adjustments for me. Our pace was really good and we were making a lot of passes and moving up. We gained almost all of our positions to move up to 5th by passing people which was cool. Then, we had the issue with the left rear brakes on our first stop. It’s unfortunate but at least we showed that we have good pace and we can race hard. I’m looking forward to doing more of that!”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 13th: “At the start, everything got all stacked up. I’m not sure if the front wing damage we had would have been a problem, but the left rear tire was going down and had to pit anyway. That was bummer, I think we would have ended up making up a couple of spots there and our strategy really wouldn’t have changed. After that stop, it forced us to commit to an alternative strategy and we were really just trying to play the game. We did a lot of fuel saving. For it going green almost the entire race, it was good to just get one under our belts. We were able to work on a lot of things and there were a lot of things we were able to learn. There were some times I think we could have gotten a little more out of it, managing situations where we were on transitions between stops. We ended up on the wrong end of the hustle coming out of the pits a couple of times, so that’s something that we’ll put some time in to problem solving. We had some brake issues and some other things going on, but the team did a great job persevering with some clean stops. Especially from where we started, that was really the goal today – make it to the end and make up positions where we could and get one in the books. We have a lot to look forward to in the next races.”
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