Still recovering from surgery for an injured left hand suffered during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, J.R. Hildebrand will be absent from the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this weekend.
In his place, however, will be a driver whose expected Verizon IndyCar Series debut has been moved up. Already tipped to drive a third car at the 101st Indianapolis 500 for A.J. Foyt Racing, Ohio-native Zach Veach will take over the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing this weekend. Veach is no stranger to success at Barber Motorsports Park, having finished third or better in three of his four Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires starts at the venue.
“My heart goes out to (Hildebrand) as I suffered a broken hand a couple years ago and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone,” Veach said. “This isn’t how any driver wants to get his first race, but with that said, I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to sub for J.R.”
The opportunity for Veach also reunites the young prospect with ECR. The three-year Indy Lights veteran tested for ECR this past September at Sonoma Raceway. Following the departure of Josef Newgarden to Team Penske, Veach was under consideration for a full-time ride, before the team chose to move forward with Hildebrand.
“Ed (Carpenter) gave me my first chance to test an Indy car a few months ago. It’s going to be very special for me to be back in that same car representing Fuzzy’s Vodka at Barber,” continued Veach. “It’s going to be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, but I’m really excited to do the best I can for the team, as well as J.R.”
While unable to compete this weekend, Hildebrand will be trackside to assist Veach and the ECR team in Alabama. The Californian remains hopeful to return for the Phoenix Grand Prix later this month.
“This obviously is not how I had hoped this would play out, but I’ve done everything there was to do since surgery last Tuesday with good results,” Hildebrand said. “It seems the risk is still too high given the initial extent of the injury. “The doctors I’ve worked with have been awesome to get my fractures sorted out and I trust their view of the situation.”
With Veach joined by Spencer Pigot in the sister No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Ed Carpenter Racing will feature a driver lineup that has earned three wins in Indy Lights competition at Barber Motorsports Park, but with neither having made an IndyCar Series start here.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.