JR Hildebrand is an American racing driver who recorded 64 starts in the IndyCar Series between 2010 and 2019. He spent only three full seasons in the IndyCar Series and the highlight of his career is the second place at 2011 Indianapolis 500, what was his only podium in a series until two more podium results in 2017..
Before his IndyCar debut in 2010, Hildebrand was an Indy Lights champion in 2009. Earlier in a career, he won 2006 Formula Ford and 2004 SCCA Formula Russell Championships.
Championship title in debut year with cars
John Randall Hildebrand was born on January 3, 1988, in Sausalito, California. He started racing at the age 14 in the go-karts Jim Russell Arrive and Drive Championship at Infineon Raceway. He immediately became a champion.
He switched to bigger cars in 2004, participating in the Formula Russell Championship and winning the title with seven wins in nineteen races.
2006 Formula Ford champion
JR then moved up to Pacific Formula 2000 in 2005, finishing second overall and the best among rookies. He was also chosen for the Team USA Scholarship to participate in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy.
Another championship-winning season followed in 2006, with Hildebrand dominating the Formula Ford 2000 National Championship. He won twelve out of 14 races.
Climbing on the racing ladder
The next step for JR was the Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2007, driving for Newman Wachs Racing. With one podium in twelve races, he finished seventh in points. At the end of the year, he made two starts for RLR Andersen Racing in the Indy Pro Series.
For 2008 season, the championship was renamed to Firestone Indy Lights Series and Hildebrand remained with RLR Andersen Racing for the full season. With one victory (Kansas Speedway) he finished fifth in the points.
Indy Lights champion in 2009
Hildebrand moved to Andretti Green Racing-AFS Racing for the 2009 Indy Lights season. He won four races and added six more podiums to take the championship title with an almost 100-point advantage over second-placed James Davison.
In May 2009, Hildebrand also participated in the last round of the A1 Grand Prix Series, driving for A1 Team USA (Andretti Green Racing) at Brands Hatch. In December 2009, Hildebrand spent three days testing for the Force India F1 team at Jerez.
IndyCar debut as a replacement driver
Instead in Formula 1, Hildebrand continued his career in the IndyCar Series, making a debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as a substitute driver for the injured Mike Conway. Hildebrand debuted in August at Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, finishing 16th. Two weeks later, he retired at mid-race at Sonoma Raceway.
Two class podiums in the American Le Mans Series
During 2010, Hildebrand also had two appearances of the American Le Mans Series with Genoa Racing, driving the #36 Oreca FLM09 prototype at Sebring 12 hours and Long Beach. His co-drivers were Andy Wallace and Tom Sutherland. At Sebring, they finished 2nd in the LMPC class. At Long Beach, Hildebrand and Sutherland were third in a class.
Sensational second place at 2011 Indy 500
For the 2011 IndyCar season, Hildebrand signed a multi–year contract with Panther Racing to drive the #4 National Guard Honda. After he qualified 12th for his debut at Indianapolis 500, Hildebrand had a chance to win a race, taking a lead with two laps to go.
He didn't go to the pits like other leading drivers, trying to stretch his tank to the finish. On the final turn of the final lap, Hildebrand was passing Charlie Kimball and slid out of the racing lane, hitting the wall. With a damaged car, driving on three wheels, Hildebrand reached the finish line but Dan Wheldon slipped by him to take the victory. Hildebrand crossed the finish line 2.1086 seconds after Wheldon.
Two full IndyCar seasons with Panther Racing
With five Top 10 results through the season, Hildebrand was 14th in the overall standings and second among rookies. In the final race, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he was involved in a 15-car wreck in which Dan Wheldon lost his life. Hildebrand sustained an injured sternum and was transported to a hospital.
One more full season with Panther Racing followed in 2012. Hildebrand scored six Top 10 results to finish 11th in the final classification. At 2012 Indianapolis 500, he was 14th. Hildebrand was released by Panther Racing after five races in the 2013 season. His last race with #4 National Guard Chevrolet was the Indy 500, where he finished in the last place (33rd) after hitting the wall on lap 4. Hildebrand returned to the race track two times with #98 Barracuda Racing's Honda, at Sonoma and Fontana.
Three seasons only at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Since 2014, JR Hildebrand is without a drive in the IndyCar Series, participating only at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2014, he joined Ed Carpenter Racing for the Indianapolis 500, driving the #21 Chevrolet and finishing 10th.
In 2015, he competed both in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indy 500 with #6 Chevrolet of CFH Racing. He finished 8th at Indy 500. JR had a similar arrangement in 2016 with Ed Carpenter Racing, driving the #6 Chevrolet in two races, finishing 22nd at Grand Prix race and 6th at Indianapolis 500.
Return to full-time racing in 2017
In the 2017 IndyCar Series season, JR Hildebrand returns to the full-time racing, taking over Ed Carpenter Racing's #21 car, as a replacement for Josef Newgarden, who moved to Team Penske. In the fourth round, at Phoenix Grand Prix, Hildebrand finished third, what was his second IndyCar podium in a career. A few months later, at Iowas Speedway, he was on a podium again, finishing second behind Helio Castroneves. At the end of the season, Hildebrand was 15th in the points.
In 2018, he lost a seat in the #21 car, participating in just one race with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, driving the #66 Chevrolet at Indianapolis 500. He finished the race in 11th place. He returned to Indianapolis with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2019, finishing 20th.