Hildebrand wins Long Beach Indy Lights
This time, J.R. Hildebrand didn’t allow anyone to get a jump on the No. 26 ARPRO car.
Hildebrand, of Sausalito, Calif., won the 45-lap Firestone Indy Lights race on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach temporary street circuit by 1.8315 seconds over Richard Philippe. James Hinchcliffe finished third and Jonathan Summerton was fourth. Ana Beatriz advanced two positions to finish fifth in the No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.
In the first of two races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., two weeks earlier, Hildebrand started from the pole but was overtaken on a restart halfway through the race. He finished third. Hildebrand started from the pole at Long Beach in the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing-prepared car. He maintained a sizable lead through the early portion of the race and no one could muster a challenge on a Lap 20 restart (one of two after full-course cautions).
“We just had a great car and the ARPRO guys have just done a great job all weekend,” said Hildebrand, who posted his second Firestone Indy Lights victory. “We had a great car at St. Petersburg, but we had some mechanicals going on or we could have been just as good there. I have to give all the credit to the boys for picking it up after a rough weekend.”
Hildebrand likes his chances at the first oval race of the season - April 26 at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. He won there in 2007.
“I think we have the potential to be the fastest on the track everywhere we go,” he said. “We had a good run at Kansas last year and picked up some miles in the IndyCar (Series car) a couple weeks ago, so maybe that will give us a leg up on everyone.”
Philippe, who finished 19th and 10th at St. Pete, started fourth in the Genoa car. Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, was runner-up for the second race in a row.
“We’re not P1, but we were equal with him,” Philippe said. “He had good restarts and I couldn’t catch him. At the end I kind of faded off a little bit and James (Hinchcliffe) was catching up a little bit. But P2 is points in the bag and we can move forward.”
Summerton has placed in the top four of all three races and is second in the points standings.
“We had a car that was very consistent,” said Summerton, driver of the No. 9 Andersen/Allied Interior Products/Lafarge car for RLR/Andersen Racing. “I wouldn’t say we had the quickest car but we were consistent. I think consistency should win the championship, so hopefully that stays true. I’m happy with fourth place but I would have liked to been on the podium.”
Junior Strous, who swept the St. Petersburg doubleheader two weeks earlier, exited on Lap 2 when a fire started onboard the No. 18 Shell V-Power Knaus HTP car. It was quickly extinguished by the Delphi Safety Team and he was uninjured. Because of his large points lead, Strous remains the championship points leader.
“The car was good, but on the first lap, I started seeing errors on my dash,” he said. “Then, in Turn 8, the car started to bog down. I looked back and saw flames and parked it immediately. I have to give credit to the marshals, because they did a great job getting to car and helped limit the damage to the car. It sucks for sure. We had a bad weekend, but will back next week for sure, hopefully with more luck.”
Ali Jackson, driving the No. 59 Guthrie Meyer Racing car, finished sixth and James Davison in the No. 21 Vision Racing entry advanced three spots to finish seventh. Sebastian Saavedra, who finished second in the second St. Petersburg race, was eighth in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car. He started 17th.
Gustavo Yacaman, driving the No. 44 Crepes & Waffles/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, finished ninth and Daniel Herrington was 10th in the No. 28 LeBleu/Bryan Herta Autosport car.