The Verizon IndyCar Series only owner/driver Ed Carpenter believes that his new driver JR Hildebrand is hungry for success in 2017.
Hildebrand who has competed in the Indianapolis 500 in a third Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet since 2014 has taken over the No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet from Josef Newgarden for this season after Newgarden’s move to Penske over the winter.
Hildebrand will be Carpenter’s only full-time driver in 2017 as Carpenter will once again share the cockpit of the No.20 Chevrolet with Spencer Pigot. Carpenter will run the oval races with Pigot running all the road and street course events. Speaking to IndyCar.com, Carpenter commented by saying:
Yeah, for sure, but beyond (Iowa), he was somebody that we wanted to get in the car more than what he was in the first place.
Carpenter revealed that the team had been going after Hildebrand for a while but financial issues meant they were unable to secure his signature:
We just weren’t successful in putting the funding in place to a high enough level to add in more races than where we were with Josef and our commitment to him as well. So yeah, a combination of things, but when he got a bigger opportunity to get in the car to go test at Iowa, Road America or Mid-Ohio … we already had a high level of confidence in his capabilities beyond Indianapolis.
Speaking about Hildebrand, Carpenter said:
He’s highly motivated right now, extremely excited for the opportunity and wants to go out and do a good job,” Carpenter said. “He knows that he has things to prove to everyone, himself included, but he is motivated and I expect a big year. I think we’ll be able to surprise a lot of people and maybe not surprise others, because he does have a lot of fans and a good track record up to the point that he wasn’t fulltime.
Hildebrand will make his full-time return to the Verizon IndyCar Series at the opening race, the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg which takes place from March 10-12.