Crash.Net IndyCar News
IL: Hildebrand clinches title, Herrington wins
30 August 2009
JR Hildebrand continued his march toward a potential IndyCar berth for 2010 by clinching the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights crown at Chicagoland Speedway, although his success from fifth at the chequered flag overshadowed a maiden win for Daniel Herrington and Bryan Herta Autosport.
A conservative finish from a lowly grid slot was enough to ensure the 21-year old Californian cannot by beaten with just one race remaining in the season, leaving the likes of James Davison, Sebastian Saavedra and Wade Cunningham to fight over the crumbs of second spot.
"It's just a dream come true," Hildebrand grinned, "I came into this year with Andretti Green Racing knowing I had every opportunity to make this happen, so it feels great to bring it home to the boys and bring everything back together after the last few years. Hopefully, we can take this and move forward for next year."
Having qualified only 13th, however, the race wasn't easy for the long-time points leader, who follows AFS/AGR predecessor Raphael Matos as champion after needing only to finish 14th.
"It was a total mess out," he reported, "You'd think starting at the back at this kind of circuit wouldn't be so bad. You'd get a big drafting pack, but when the entire field is three- and four-wide, there's nowhere to go. But we just worked our way to the field and got to the front."
Herrington, meanwhile, turned ninth in qualifying into his first Indy Lights victory, beating Davison to the line by 0.0613secs to easily surpass a previous best finish of fifth in his first full season with BHA.
He had been running third behind Cunningham and Davison when the yellow flag flew for an incident involving Mike Potekhen, Ana Beatriz and James Hinchcliffe on lap 32, and got a good jump on the restart, going three-wide into turn four before moving to the front.
"Finally," Herrington exclaimed, "We've had a rough couple of races in the middle of the season but, at the beginning of the year, Bryan told us we would win a race. We just didn't think it would be this late in the season before we did. It sure is nice to get that win."
"It's unbelievable - but it feels great," Herta echoed, "Actually, it feels just like winning as a driver. I'm so excited about Daniel getting his first win and getting him in victory lane. The way it worked was exactly how our programme is set up between Vision Racing and BHA, a technical partnership working together. Out on the track, those guys worked so well together - James helped us out a lot. It's just a great result and a great feeling."
Davison finished second for the second time this season, creating an pseudo 1-2 for Vision Racing.
"I'm definitely happy to finish second to my 'team-mate'," he commented, "With this race, if you can work together with somebody, especially your team-mate, you can control your result a little more. Just thinking of the points, it's always better to take what you can get."
Andrew Prendeville claimed third, also his best result of the season, while Cunningham and Hildebrand rounded out the top five.
"We had a good run and we had a good car," Prendeville reported, "It was pretty chaotic out there. At the beginning of the race, we held back and waited for everyone else to screw up. That happened and we had a really strong car. I'm happy to be on the podium."
Saavedra, Charlie Kimball, Martin Plowman, Pippa Mann and Rodrigo Barbosa, who ELFF team enlisted the help of St Pete racewinner PDM Racing for the weekend, completed the top ten.
Polesitter Brandon Wagner faded soon after the start, before eventually parking the Hamilton/Kingdom entry with handling problems. Logan Gomez, who set a Guinness World Record for closest finish of an automobile race when he won the Chicagoland 100 in 2007, worked with Wagner this weekend and revealed that he is trying to put together a deal to race at the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.