By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Hildebrand looks ahead to rest of rookie season
2. Howard gets ride for Texas
3. Boy Scouts join INDYCAR as official partner
1. Hildebrand looks ahead to rest of rookie season: For the last week, JR Hildebrand dealt publicly with “what if?” Privately, the circumstances surrounding the 23-year-old Californian’s runner-up finish in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 were resolved soon after the checkered flag.
Hildebrand dutifully recounted the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race during a break while testing the Milwaukee Mile June 3 for the upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series race.
“I’ve always been sort of a math/science type of guy. I’d like to think I have a pretty logical perspective on what goes on, and I think that allows all of us to look back at what happened and take it for what it is,” he said. “There’s a lot of fairly complex things that went into what ended up transpiring on the last couple of corners.
“No matter how it ended up, it wasn’t about me. It was about the team putting me in this incredible situation, especially how it worked out at the end of the race.”
Hildebrand’s highest IZOD IndyCar Series finish – and second consecutive top 10 – propelled him to eighth in the championship, and he leads James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing by 33 points in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
The next undertaking is three consecutive weekends on distinctly different ovals – the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway (June 11), the flat Milwaukee Mile (June 19) and the 0.875-mile, variably-banked Iowa Speedway (25). The former and latter will be under the lights.
There also is a different format at Texas with the Firestone Twin 275s – two 114-lap races on the same evening with an hour intermission.
Hildebrand joined a dozen other IZOD IndyCar Series competitors on the Milwaukee Mile, recording 99 laps in preparation for the Milwaukee 225 on June 19. During his Firestone Indy Lights championship season in 2009, Hildebrand started and finished second to pole sitter Mario Romancini at Milwaukee.
“For everybody at Panther Racing it was refreshing to focus on something different, and Milwaukee and Indy are so different it was nice to be in a new situation and start moving forward,” Hildebrand said. “Indianapolis was a big sigh of relief for all of us because now we know we can do this right and be competitive. And we’re definitely taking that with us as we move forward.
“It’s been a couple years since I’ve ran here in anything, but we rolled out and were up to speed right away. We got settled in pretty quick, and from there it was just all of us trying to make progress on the day. There were a lot of things I was picking up on as we worked through the day. It’s a different place, but having ran two days in Phoenix in December prepared me for running at Milwaukee even though those two tracks are very different.”
2. Howard gets ride for Texas: Jay Howard will reprise his Indianapolis 500 role as the driver of the No. 88 Service Central Sam Schmidt Motorsport/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car in the Firestone Twin 275s on June 11 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 1.5-mile oval will play host to two 114-lap races (with a one-hour intermission) on the same evening. The grid for the first race will be set by traditional qualifying on June 10, and the starting lineup for the second race will be determined by a blind draw following the first race.
“Service Central has believed in me from the start and it’s very exciting to return with them to the Texas Motor Speedway,” Howard said. “Our Indy 500 effort was strong all month long and to have it end the way it did was unfortunate. We are looking ahead to Texas and plan another hard-fought effort with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. I must thank the entire group at TBC Retail Group and their four retail brands – NTB, Big O Tires, Tire Kingdom and Merchant Tires for the opportunity.”
Howard was running in the top half of the field early in the 100th anniversary Indy 500 on May 29 when his outing was cut short by a Lap 62 crash triggered by a loose wheel as he came off of pit lane. He finished 30th in his first 500 Mile Race.
“Jay had a fantastic run going at the Indy 500, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” Schmidt said. “We really appreciate the support of Service Central and their brands that are making it possible for Jay to have another shot at Texas.”
Howard, the 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion, has made 10 IZOD IndyCar Series starts, including Texas Motor Speedway in 2010 with Sarah Fisher Racing.
“We are entering into an event where anything can happen, but as we showed in Indianapolis, our team is ready for anything that does happen,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Jay impressed us on race day and we are very optimistic that he can have another good weekend for us in Texas.”
3. Boy Scouts join INDYCAR as official partner: The Boy Scouts of America will serve as an official sponsor of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, INDYCAR officials announced June 6.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) were introduced to motorsports in 2010 through an association with Dale Coyne Racing—an experience that convinced the 101-year-old organization that INDYCAR was an ideal partner with whom to align and to advance their youth leadership and education initiatives. The BSA expects to use the INDYCAR relationship to teach Scouts about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) aspects of racing.
“Racing is a modern way to connect with youth and to further Scouting’s dedication to expanding tomorrow’s leaders through STEM,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive of the BSA. “INDYCAR adds fun and entertainment to these educational exercises, providing a cool way to get kids excited about learning. We are thrilled about this relationship and the opportunities it gives our young people.”
The BSA will continue to enjoy the opportunity to market its brand to INDYCAR’s television audience and at its live races via the red, white, and blue Boy Scouts of America-branded No. 19 car of Dale Coyne Racing. Also, Scouts will be able to visit the Dale Coyne Racing paddock to talk to engineers and see the team at work firsthand. Discounted tickets will be available at numerous races across the country, and promotional elements such as Scout Alley will be activated to entertain the young men as they become fans of INDYCAR and exposed to behind-the-scenes aspects of the motorsports industry.
“One of INDYCAR’s goals is to grow its audience and establish the next generation of fans,” said Randy Bernard, INDYCAR CEO. “This relationship with the Boy Scouts of America allows us to engage new and younger demographic sectors and create a more family friendly environment, serving our youth initiatives through its grassroots campaigns.”
With 2.7 million youth members, more than one million adult volunteers, and nearly 50 million living alumni, there will be considerably more fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2012 and beyond. The agreement between the Boy Scouts of America and INDYCAR is in place until December 2012.
IZOD IndyCar Series driver Alex Lloyd raced the Boys Scouts of America-branded car through the entire 2010 schedule, culminating in IZOD IndyCar Series rookie of the year honors. For 2011, Lloyd joins Sebastien Bourdais in the team’s No. 19 car. Lloyd drives on the ovals, including this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway while Bourdais races the road and street courses.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Firestone Twin 275s on June 11 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the David Hobbs 100 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 17.