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Firestone Indy Lights: Infineon Raceway 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Infineon Raceway 100

Firestone Indy Lights: Infineon Raceway 100

J.R. Hildebrand
August 23, 2009


SONOMA, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Felipe and James.
We've been joined by our race winner, Sausalito native JR Hildebrand. He won his fourth race of the season today, all on road or street courses, and his second from pole position. He needs to finish 13th at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday to clinch the Firestone Indy Lights title. Talk a little bit about your race, JR.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Just a great race for us. You know, I knew we had really good equipment. In qualifying we showed that yesterday. Made some changes this morning. A little bit up in the air what the weather was going to be like. The cars are different depending whether it's hot or cold. We picked something we thought was going to be a little bit between.
The car started off loose. As long as I could take care, that proved to be really quick. One of our strong points all year has been being able to run consistently fast lap times during the race. I had the car under me the whole way. I think that was sort of our key right there.
THE MODERATOR: Most of us know you're from nearby Sausalito.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It doesn't hurt that I know the track like the back of my hand.
It's awesome. It almost brings things full circle to some extent. Obviously, hopefully there's a little bit more to it. I won my first ever race on the track in the Jim Russell Racing Championship Series. In that race I spun out a bunch of times in qualifying. I posted the fastest lap, had to start last. Came up through the field. So it's cool to be able to come back a few levels up the ladder and be able to do the same thing.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Questions.

Q. Yesterday you talked about climbing that ladder, the last wrung being the hardest one to climb. You just started here today a little further down on the ladder. Talk about how today fits into your portfolio of your career, how important today is to you as an individual, how that positions you to take the next step up the ladder that you talked about yesterday.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I mean, we try to just kind of take things one race at a time, one session at a time. We didn't really approach this weekend a whole lot different from that perspective because our cars, our equipment has been really good. Our cars have been fast. When they're like that, we've been able to take advantage in the past races.
On the podium, I said I feel like almost all the races this year are hometown races because we go into each race knowing we've got a good shot at winning.
Coming here was no different. I just have that little extra advantage. So I try to look at it instead of being a little extra pressure, a little bit more on my side to be able to pull it off here at the end of the weekend. I think once we get through the next couple of races, hopefully we'll be able to start making things happen moving forward.

Q. Whatever it's worth, at the end of the race, when Michael was interviewed, he was asked, What do you think of your driver JR, is he ready to move? And he said, Absolutely.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Michael has been amazing to be around. You couldn't have a better driver coach for on the track or off the track than a guy that's had as much experience and has been so competitive like Michael Andretti. Obviously coming from him, I take that as quite a compliment. Hopefully it would be great if I was able to work with those guys moving forward.

Q. JR, you pulled out such an amazing lead and kept on padding it. Were you just in such a groove that you didn't want to slow down?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Well, I wanted to try to get a little bit of a gap right away because I know from running behind guys, you know, in other races during the season, other races during my career, it's a little bit easier to break just that little bit later and all that kind of stuff, you got a little bit of a carrot you're chasing after. I tried to pull away a little bit at the beginning and thought I will settle in. Last week, the last race at Mid-Ohio, I was pushing really hard at the beginning and just wore the car out too much. So I didn't really want to do that again. So I thought I'd kind of settle in, see what the car was going to do, if it was going to be loose or understeer, how I was going to manage that. Took five, six laps to kind of get a handle on it and then from there it didn't really change much through the rest of the race. The car, I just lap to lap would kind of make sure I was keeping the rear tires under me, this and that, but was able to just keep pushing at that point. I kind of kept thinking, Well, okay, it's probably going to get a little bit worse. If that happens I'll slow down a little bit. Just never really happened. So just kept on going.

Q. What did you think when you found out you were more than 15 seconds ahead?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: They stopped telling me after a little while. So I just kind of -- I slowed up a little bit toward the end of the race just because it was getting -- with the heat, the race actually was 10 laps longer than our races here last year were, so I thought it's not really worth trucking it off if I'm that far ahead. At the same time I was just trying to stay focused. Sometimes if you start thinking too much about, Oh, where can I let off a little bit, then you let off a little bit too much or you stop paying attention or whatever. So I kind of tried to just stick with it through the end.

Q. (No microphone.)
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It didn't really change it that much. I mean, I figured at the actual start of the race that I could get off to a good jump. It was a little bit of a weird run down to the green. I wasn't really sure what was going on. I just pinned it and left, garbled it a little bit. These guys were able to take advantage, it looked like.
Just kind of got off to the start. My plan from there was the same thing, to try to pull out a little bit of a gap. Ended up just having to wait a few laps to try to do that on the restart.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.



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