Indianapolis 500 ‘nearly man’ J.R. Hildebrand will get another chance to exorcise his past demons at the famous event, after securing a one-off deal to compete in a second entry fielded by the Ed Carpenter Racing team.
Despite winning the Indy Lights championship in 2009, the Californian’s IndyCar Series record has failed to live up to its promise, aside from one brief, and infamous highlight: incredibly leading the 2011 Indianapolis 500 at his first attempt, Hildebrand hit the wall at the last corner on the final lap, slithering across the finish line on three wheels while a bewildered Dan Wheldon claimed a shock win.
Two years later, Hildebrand’s relationship with the Panther Racing team came to an end, embarrassingly crashing out just a few laps into the race. He was sacked just days after the race, and returned at the end of the season with two outings for the Barracuda Racing squad.
Those performances weren’t enough to earn him a full-time drive in 2014, until Ed Carpenter Racing came knocking with a drive in a second entry.
“We, at Ed Carpenter Racing, are very pleased to bring J.R. Hildebrand into our Indy 500 effort this year,” team owner/driver Ed Carpenter said.
“J.R. 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. We believe a second car at Indy will assist us in preparing for a strong performance in this year’s Indy 500.”
“I’m extremely excited to join Ed Carpenter Racing for this year’s Indianapolis 500,” Hildebrand added. “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.”