Hildebrand wins first race, takes points lead
J.R. Hildebrand couldn't break away from the pack over the final laps in the Kansas Lottery 100 at Kansas Speedway. But as long as he was in control, the Firestone Indy Lights rookie didn't have to.
Hildebrand, starting fourth in the No. 25 Allied Building Products car, held off the No. 55 Guthrie Racing car of Robbie Pecorari on a Lap 59 restart and at the line eight laps later for his first Firestone Indy Lights victory and the first for RLR/Andersen Racing. The difference was 0.0553 of a second - the eighth-closest in Firestone Indy Lights history in the series' first race at the 1.52-mile oval since 2004. Arie Luyendyk was third (0.2102 of a second back) and Dillon Battistini fourth (0.3456 of a second behind).
The starting lineup was set by entrant points, with a blind draw for positions 8 through 11 because those spots were tied at 64 points, as a damp racing surface and cold temperatures wiped out qualifications.
"It feels so good for the team; everybody has worked so hard," said Hildebrand, of Sausalito, Calif. "To be able to come away with a win in just the fourth race has put us in a really good spot in the championship. I didn't think our first win would come on an oval but we'll take it and keep going with Indy coming up and then the height of the season."
Hildebrand advanced 13 positions to finish 10th in the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and moved up one spot to fifth in the first race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. He was runner-up in the second race.
"We've progressed and improved our finishing position with every race, and now I'm on top step of the podium," he said.
Pos. Driver/Car No Laps Status Earnings Pts
1 J.R. Hildebrand Allied Building Products 25 67 Running $32,500 52
2 Robbie Pecorari Guthrie Racing 55 67 Running $25,000 40
3 Arie Luyendyk Jr. Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. 26 67 Running $20,000 35
4 Dillon Battistini Panther Racing 15 67 Running $17,000 32
5 Wade Cunningham Brian Stewart Racing 33 67 Running $16,000 30
6 Sean Guthrie Car Crafters Guthrie Racing 4 67 Running $15,500 28
7 Jeff Simmons TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling 2 67 Running $15,000 26
8 Brent Sherman Best Buddies/PEC 16 67 Running $14,500 24
9 Bobby Wilson Patriot Bank Team E 17 67 Running $14,000 22
10 Al Unser III Ethos Fuel Reformulator 21 67 Running $13,500 20
11 James Davison Lifelock/ Sam Schmidt Motorsports 11 67 Running $12,500 19
12 Pablo Donoso SWE Racing 43 67 Running $13,000 18
13 Richard Antinucci Lucas Oil / Sam Schmidt Motorsports 7 67 Running $10,500 17
14 Ana Beatriz Healthy Choice/ Sam Schmidt Mtrspts 20 67 Running $10,000 16
15 Logan Gomez Menards Guthrie Racing 23 67 Running $9,500 15
16 Chris Festa Alliance Motorsports 24 67 Running $9,000 14
17 Jake Slotten Michael Crawford Motorsports 6 67 Running $9,500 13
18 Mark Olson Michael Crawford Motorsports 8 60 Handling $10,500 12
19 Raphael Matos Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. 27 57 Contact $5,000 11
20 Micky Gilbert Mile High Motorsports 54 41 Running $4,500 10
21 Jon Brownson Westridge Development/ SSM 34 33 Contact $3,500 9
22 Cyndie Allemann American Spirit 18 25 Contact $3,000 8
23 Andrew Prendeville Best Friends Animal Society 5 25 Contact $2,000 7
24 Juan Manuel Polar Brian Stewart Racing 3 0 Running $1,000 3
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, finished first): “I'm so happy. It feels so good for the team; everybody has worked so hard. To be able to come away with a win in just the fourth race has put us in a really good spot in the championship. I didn't think our first win would come on an oval, but we'll take it and keep going with Indy coming up and then the height of the season. We've progressed and improved our finishing position with every race, and now I'm on the top step of the podium.” (About the last seven laps) “I was probably looking backwards more than I was looking forward. He (Pecorari) raced me clean. My car was good right at the bottom so I was able to stay there and keep him behind me. We ended up pulling it off at the line.”
ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 55 Guthrie Racing, finished second): “The car was great. I have to thank the entire Guthrie Racing team. We knew we had a car that was capable of running strong. It's unfortunate that we didn't get to qualify, but we had a strong car. It paid off in the end. There weren't too many close calls for us today. Coming up to the start/finish line on the last lap, I had a bit of a bobble in Turn 3, but at that point it was all about trying to go for the win. Congratulations to RLR/Anderson team for pulling it off.”
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., finished third): “Our car struggled a bit on the restarts. I think that's what caught us at the end. Other than that, the car was beautiful to drive. We had a few really good opening laps that helped me move up to third right away. Then it was just me and (J.R.) Hildebrand up at the front for awhile, working together to get away from everybody, but the restarts brought everyone back together. Great job by the crew. We had a tough car to drive this weekend, but it was fast. It was just a shame that we couldn't pick up that first win.”
DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 15 Panther Racing, finished fourth): “It’s been a good ending considering the way the rest of the weekend has gone. We had a few problems in practice (Saturday) that cost us track time, and this morning we lost fuel pressure that cost us the warm-up. Going into this race, I had no idea what the car was going to be like. My engineer did a fantastic job of second-guessing the setup. I had a car that was capable of winning the race. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my way through (traffic at end). Part of my mind was on the championship as well. I was aware that the two drivers I would consider my main rivals for the championship had bad races, so I knew if I just finished in the top three or four I was looking really good for the championship.”
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing, finished fifth): “The track hasn’t been in good conditions all weekend, so we ran with a lot of downforce on the car. It was great for the first half of the race when I was passing people. We got in that front pack really quickly, but there was no way I could challenge the first- and second-place cars. Just the way the gearing worked and how the headwinds were made it difficult to try to make a pass. We didn’t have the capacity starting so far back and with so much downforce. I didn’t take that many chances, and it was a good result.”