Hildebrand tops Phoenix test despite late crash


JR Hildebrand was quickest on day two at Phoenix - Credit: Joe Skibinski / IndyCar

JR Hildebrand set the fastest time of the two-day test at the Phoenix International Raceway but ended his day in the wall as one of four drivers to crash on Saturday.

Hildebrand, who will be making a full-time return to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017, led an Ed Carpenter Racing 1-2 ahead of his team boss Ed Carpenter, with his lap of 193.234mph an unofficial lap record, albeit done with the aid of a tow.

Friday’s pacesetter Josef Newgarden continued his good start to his Team Penske career with the third fastest time of the afternoon session, with team-mates Helio Castroneves and Will Power close behind.

The first session saw only one crash, with 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi hitting the SAFER barrier after losing control of his Andretti Herta Autosport machine as he went through turn one. The American was unhurt and cleared by the medical team to continue his running, although his team had a lot of work to do in order to get him back on track for the evening session.

Ryan Hunter-Reay led the way in the final session of the test on Saturday evening, with the Andretti Autosport driver setting a best lap of 189.716mph to finish just ahead of Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, while Hunter-Reay’s team-mate Marco Andretti was third quickest.

Max Chilton was fourth for Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of Takuma Sato, who made it three Andretti machines inside the top five despite finding his evening ended early when he crashed into the turn two SAFER barrier.

Sato was not the only casualty of the evening session, with Graham Rahal having earlier spun into the same wall for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, while Hildebrand hit the turn four SAFER barrier with thirty minutes of the day remaining.

There was also a close call for Newgarden and Bourdais in the final half hour when they battled into turn one, the two drivers making light contact but escaping any real damage, both safely returning to the pits.