Blade Hildebrand opens 2019 SST season with maiden win

by Justin Nguyen

The 2019 SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks season kicked off Saturday with racing from Circuit of the Americas, the series’ first excursion to Austin since the X Games in 2015. When the checkered flag flew on Race #1, Blade Hildebrand was on top of the podium for the first time in his career after leading its entirety.

Driving the #60, Travis Pecoy started on the front row alongside Bill Hynes following qualifying earlier in the day. The #60 is usually driven by Cole Potts, who was unable to arrive for the race on time; Jessie Johnson piloted the truck in Friday’s practice sessions. Hildebrand started third next to Gavin Harlien, followed by Ryan Beat, Robby Gordon, Jeff Hoffman, and reigning champion Matt Brabham.

Hildebrand took the lead after passing Pecoy during the opening lap. As Hildebrand led, Harlien claimed second as Pecoy began to fall, surrendering third to Gordon on lap two. The trio eventually distanced themselves from the rest of the field as Brabham moved to fourth.

Credit: John Arndt

At the start of lap four, Gordon spun in turn one while vying for the lead, dropping him to fifth. After a brief battle for first between Hildebrand and Harlien, the former maintained the position as the competition caution came out. During the break, Harlien pitted for mechanical issues, effectively removing him from race contention.

Hildebrand led the grid to the restart on lap five with Brabham trailing him. Behind the two, Hoffman and Gordon fought for third, allowing the leaders to separate themselves. The following lap, Gordon caught up to Brabham.

With two laps to go, Brabham attempted to pass Hildebrand for first in turn one, but his effort caused him to erratically jump off the first ramp and fall off the pace. Moments later, he spun off course, leaving Hildebrand to battle with Gordon for first.

On the final lap, Hoffman, who was running third, lost his left-rear tyre to knock him out of the race, allowing Beat to take over third. At the front, Hildebrand was able to hold off Gordon in the final corner to score his first SST win. Prior to the victory, his best series finish was third at Barbagallo Raceway and Road America during his rookie season in 2018.

Credit: John Arndt

As he attempted to celebrate by balancing on two wheels, Hildebrand rolled his truck. “Should have put a big sticker, a nice ‘Hi Mom!’ on the belly pad of that truck right there,” race commentator Sean Sermini quipped. “Just because you beat Robby Gordon and you’re that cool doesn’t mean you’re cool enough just yet to be doing the two-wheel action, but I give him kudos for giving it a go right there.”

Gordon finished second behind Hildebrand, while Beat closed a strong SST debut for himself and new series partner Continental Tire in third.

SST Circuit of the Americas Race #1 results

1368Blade Hildebrand8Leader
267Robby Gordon8+ 0.845
3551Ryan Beat8+ 2.668
4160Travis Pecoy8+ 6.019
5257Bill Hynes8+ 6.434
6883Matt Brabham8+ 20.569
7747Jeff Hoffman7+ 1 lap
8455Gavin Harlien6+ 2 laps

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