J.R. Hildebrand moved closer to clinching the Firestone Indy Lights driver championship with a commanding victory in the Carneros 100 at his "home track" of Infineon Raceway. With a 90-point advantage, he now needs to finish 13th (or better) on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway oval next weekend. Of course, he'd prefer to finish better.
Hildebrand, starting from the pole in the No. 26 ARPRO entry for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, pulled away at the midpoint of the 40-lap race and went on to win by 15.8918 seconds over Felipe Guimaraes, who posted his third consecutive top-five finish in as many starts in the No. 29 Bryan Herta Autosport car.
It was the fourth victory -- all on road/street circuits -- for the resident of Sausalito, Calif.
"It doesn't hurt that I know the track like the back of my hand," Hildebrand said. "I won my first-ever race on the track in the Jim Russell Racing Championship Series. In that race I spun out a bunch of times in qualifying. I posted the fastest lap, had to start last. So it's cool to be able to come back a few levels up the ladder and be able to do the same thing."
Teammate Sebastian Saavedra, who qualified second, was moved to the rear of the 19-car grid after a post-qualifying engine change in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car. He weaved through the field to finish seventh, but surrendered valuable points.
"I think our strongest competition was going to be my teammate Sebastian," Hildebrand said. "He showed that by picking up as many spots as he at the end, after starting at the back with the engine change. It was a nice, clean race. I was able to just tick off the laps. We ran most of our laps within a couple of tenths (of a second) within the fastest lap I ran during the race. That's really what we were trying to do. That's been our strong point all year and it proved to be strong again here."
James Davison, who won two weeks earlier at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the No. 21 People*s Liberation/Vision Racing car, advanced three positions to finish third. Richard Philippe overtook Ana Beatriz on Lap 32 to finish third in the No. 37 Palm Beach International Raceway car.
"I was able to make some moves and some of my peers made some mistakes, so I was able to capitalize on them," Philippe said. "It's been a very emotional weekend. My brother (Nelson, injured in an IndyCar Series practice crash Aug. 22) is still in the hospital so this race is for him. All of his sponsors are on my car. It's been a tough weekend, but I have a job to do. Hopefully he'll be back soon and running with me."
James Hinchcliffe recorded his seventh top 10 in the past eight races with a sixth place, while Charlie Kimball was eighth and Mario Romancini finished ninth. Martin Plowman was 10th in the No. 16 Panther Racing car.
Gustavo Yacaman was evaluated at the infield care center after being involved in a Lap 2 incident, according to Indy Racing League medical director Dr. Michael Olinger. He will follow up with Dr. Terry Trammell in Indianapolis this week. The right-front tire of Yacaman's No. 44 Crepes & Waffles/Tuvascol/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car made contact with the left-rear of Daniel Herrington's No. 18 LeBleu/Bryan Herta Autosport car, shooting Yacaman's car off the concrete retaining wall in Turn 11.