However, when Panther Racing this year didn't see things going so well, Hildebrand found himself out of a ride. That's disappointing, as Hildebrand should by all rights be one of the most marketable young stars in IndyCar. He's a sharp interview, he has plenty of talent, and is clearly tied into the car culture.
So, what we are left with is a free agent who has been working to put together a deal for 2014. That sets up some intriguing possibilities for next year. While money and openings will of course be a driving factor for where Hildebrand ends up, here's some fun speculation as to just where JR could land:
Andretti Autosport: Hildebrand's Lights championship season was with Andretti Green-AGR, so it isn't as if he doesn't have some experience working with Michael Andretti. Hildebrand-to-Andretti has been mentioned before as an entertaining potential partnership, and JR would likely be a welcome addition to that team. However, it comes down to open spots. Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, and Marco Andretti would all seem to be rock-solid for next year. EJ Viso has been very good for the team this year, and has to be considered as at least a possibility to continue on with the team. There's also Lights/500 driver Carlos Munoz, who will very likely move up with AA or someone else next season. JR to AA sounds fun, but some pieces would need to move around before that happens.
Bryan Herta Autosport: Team Barracuda/BHA has had a very rough road of it lately, and it's left all sorts of questions as to where their 2013 plans might lead. Alex Tagliani is a community-oriented veteran driver, but no one is quite sure whether or not he'll return for another season with Bryan Herta's team. If the position is open after the season's end, it would seem as if Hildebrand would be high on a list of potential options for BHA to consider.
|Hildebrand needs to find a new home for '14.|
Courtesy IndyCar Media. Credit: Bret Kelley
Dale Coyne Racing: This might not seem like an ideal location for Hildebrand, as the primary car seems to be happily occupied with a successful Justin Wilson, but there is the question of the second car. Generally, the engineering and support for the 2nd Coyne machine hasn't been been up to snuff and is usually occupied by a less-experienced racer, but a 1-2 punch of Wilson and Hildebrand sounds like an absolute blast. Additionally, Hildebrand has been rumored to be in the Coyne car at some point later this season, and tested with Coyne back in 2010. This landing spot might not seem as far-fetched as it seems at first blush.
Ed Carpenter Racing: Since the inception of the team, fans have wondered if Ed Carpenter will be expanding to two cars. If the stars do align for Carpenter in 2014, Hildebrand would be a free agent, an American coming to an All-American sort of team, and someone who could assist the team with road/street course performance. Of course, there's no guarantee ECR has expansion planned, but if they do, the two would seem at first glance to be a nice complementary duo.
Those are just some of the examples of where JR Hildebrand might end up in 2014. Feel free to share your thoughts on where he might end up below!