Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand Eager to Continue ECR’s Streak Podium Finishes on Short Ovals
AUGUST 22 — After finishing in the Top 3 in the first two short oval races of the year, Ed Carpenter Racing is eager to make it three-for-three this weekend in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. ECR drivers Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand are both hopeful to add to the two podium finishes Hildebrand has already collected this year. Saturday night’s 248-lap race will also be the last race of 2017 for Carpenter as the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series competes exclusively in the oval events.
Despite Carpenter’s longevity in the Verizon IndyCar Series, he has not yet competed in an Indy car race at Gateway Motorsports Park. The last Indy car event at Gateway was the 11th round of the 2003 season; Carpenter’s Verizon IndyCar Series debut came in the 14th round of that same year. However, Carpenter is one of the few drivers that has previously raced on the 1.25-mile oval. He finished in the Top 5 of Indy Lights races at Gateway in 2002 and 2003; prior to that, he raced on the 1.25-mile oval in USAC Silver Crown events.
It will also be the first Verizon IndyCar Series race at Gateway for Hildebrand, who began racing Indy cars in 2010. Hildebrand’s first taste of Gateway Motorsports Park came in the Series-wide open test in early May, running alongside Carpenter. Carpenter’s testing resume at Gateway is more extensive, including a few hours at the beginning of this month on the newly-repaved surface. He was one of seven drivers to participate in a Firestone Tire test in October of 2016; in September of 2015, Carpenter turned the first laps at Gateway in today’s Indy car to confirm the track’s feasibility for hosting a Verizon IndyCar Series event.
Hildebrand has reached the podium at both of the short oval races this season. Just 20 days removed from breaking a bone in his left hand in a last-lap incident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Hildebrand turned 250 laps under the lights in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet at the one-mile oval of Phoenix Raceway and raced his way to 3rd. Last month, he topped that performance at Iowa Speedway’s .875-mile oval when he led 40 laps and matched his career-best Indy car result with a 2nd place finish. Hildebrand also led this year’s Indianapolis 500 and last weekend’s 500-mile race at Pocono Raceway.
Carpenter has finished in the Top 12 in all five of his races this year, including a 7th place at Phoenix. Carpenter qualified 2nd for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, giving ECR their 4th front row start in the past five years. When Carpenter took the lead of the 500, 2017 became the 10th year in a row in which he has led a Verizon IndyCar Series race. Carpenter has been quick throughout the season, recording the fastest lap times in practice sessions at Indianapolis and Texas Motor Speedway and the second-fastest lap in final practice at Iowa.
Carpenter has spent a significant amount of time in the St. Louis region promoting Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Ed Carpenter Racing’s 2016 driver lineup, including Carpenter, travelled to St. Louis last August when Gateway was officially confirmed as the newest event on the 2017 schedule. On Tuesday of Indianapolis 500 race week this year, all 33 drivers visited 21 cities in less than 24 hours. Carpenter headed to St. Louis, appearing on local television and radio stations before visiting nearby Scott Air Force Base.
TONIGHT (AUGUST 22): Carpenter will throw out the first pitch at Busch Stadium for the St. Louis vs. San Diego MLB game. He will sign autographs for fans 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. CT before driving an Indy car on to the field to throw out the first pitch. Additionally, an INDYCAR Fan Fest will be held at Ballpark Village ahead of Thursday night’s Cardinals game. Hildebrand and Spencer Pigot, road and street course driver of the No. 20, will be part of an autograph session from 5:15-5:45 p.m. CT.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “I am very excited to be coming back to Gateway. Having raced there in the past, I think that it will be a great show. A lot of race tracks we go to are fairly symmetrical from one end to the other. Gateway isn’t! Turns 1 and 2 in St. Louis are very tight and a little more banky, very challenging. Turns 3 and 4 are more open radius and fast cornering. It’s similar to Pocono (Raceway), not in layout but in uniqueness and character. When you have that, it really makes it a challenge for the driver and the team to get a balance in the car that works at both ends of the track. When you have that compromise, I think it produces really good racing.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet): “I’m looking forward to the last short oval on the schedule where I hope we can continue to be as strong as we’ve tended to be earlier in the year. There are certainly still some unknowns with this being a new event, but the Fuzzy’s Vodka team has been doing a great job and we’ll be looking to make good on that!”