JR Hildebrand has been cleared to drive and will return to the cockpit of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet for this weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway.
Hildebrand sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a last-lap incident April 9 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He underwent surgery April 11 and sat out the April 23 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, replaced by rookie Zach Veach, who finished 19th.
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Receiving the medical go-ahead, Hildebrand will make his third start this season at Phoenix and first on an oval since finishing sixth in last year’s Indianapolis 500.
“It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury,” Hildebrand said. “I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car. I feel like I’m far enough along (in recuperation) to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix.
Hildebrand and teammate/team owner Ed Carpenter were fastest in the two-day Verizon IndyCar Series open test at Phoenix Raceway in February. Hildebrand clocked a lap of 193.234 mph while Carpenter, in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, ran a lap of 192.404 mph on the 1.022-mile oval.
“I know we’ve got a good program; I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong,” Hildebrand said. “The competition there is tough, I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car. Everyone has been super helpful and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”
A single two-hour practice session is scheduled from 7-9 p.m. ET Friday at Phoenix Raceway, followed by Verizon P1 Award pole qualifying at 11 p.m. Practice and qualifying will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live coverage of the 250-lap race begins at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.