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Redwood Grad Hildebrand Takes Top 10 at Sonoma

Ryan Briscoe claims the IndyCar checkered flag for the first time at the road course. Defending champion Will Power is second and Dario Franchitti third.

Unlike his father a week earlier, Sausalito's JR Hildebrand was able to avoid major trouble on his way to the finish line during Sunday's GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

The Redwood High School grad avoided the accidents that took out some of the favorites in Sunday's race on his way to an eighth-place finish. Hildebrand started the day 17th in his No. 4 Panther Racing Chevrolet.

"We had to work really hard to get to the Top 10," Hildebrand said. "The boys did a really great job, and it's nice to finally have a single-digit finish back at home. I'm definitely happy."

The finish was his best in IndyCar at Sonoma. He was 24th in 2010 and 23rd in 2011.

Ryan Briscoe earned his first IndyCar win since 2010 in Texas.

"It's big. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to win again," Briscoe said. "It has been too long. Especially here in Sonoma, I've always done so well at this track.

Briscoe dethroned two-time defending Sonoma champion Will Power, who placed second ahead of Dario Franchitti.

"Great battle with Will (Power) at the end there," Briscoe said. "It was fun at the end there with some pressure from Will."

Hildebrand's car, with a red and gold paint scheme inspired by Panther co-owner Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers head coach, worked its way through the field, but never really got within striking range to take the lead. An error in the team's first pit stop put Hildebrand further behind.

"We had little bit of a fueling issue during the first stop, which was really a bummer because we had to end up making an extra pit stop and it threw our strategy off for the day," Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand had a large contingent from Marin County at the track to support him, but his home field advantage wasn't enough to get the checkered flag. Briscoe joined four past winners (Power, Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves), all of whom finished ahead of Hildebrand.

"At the end of the race when JR had worked his way up to the Top 10, he got hung up in some traffic," said John Hildebrand, JR's father. "It was smart of him to just stay out of trouble. There were some crazy people out there toward the end."

Despite a few "crazy" scenes, there were only two caution flags during the race. Sebastien Bourdais tangled with rookie Josef Newgarden on Lap 65, sending them both into the barrier in Turn 8. Hunter-Reay and Alex Tagliani collided in Turn 7 on Lap 75.

Past Sonoma winner Helio Castroneves got caught up in a minor fender bender on Lap 3 and was called for a penalty.

JR Hildebrand was at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on August 18-19 for the historic car races, where John Hildebrand was competing. His car caught fire during the first day of racing, but suffered only minor damage.

"JR was my personal driver coach. That was neat," John said.

Hildebrand is 11th in the IndyCar points standings as the series prepares for its final two races in Baltimore and Fontana.

Power extended his series lead to 36 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished 18th Sunday.

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Rocky August 27, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Glad to see Hildebrand sportin' the 49er colors!
Tracy August 27, 2012 at 04:29 AM
More sports coverage on the patch site, PLEASE!
GAFlynn August 27, 2012 at 04:08 PM
nice piece of reporting--felt like I was there
Ian August 27, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I wasn't aware Jim Harbaugh was a race fan. How neat!

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