Firestone Indy Lights: Kansas Lottery 100
Topics: Kansas Lottery 100
April 27, 2008
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and congratulations.
We're joined by today's winner of the Kansas Lottery 100, J.R. Hildebrand. This is his first win, and the first win for RLR Anderson Racing. And just a quick note â it is also the eighth closest finish in series history. How about your race today?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Oh, man, it was great. We were running really well on our own. The car was really good in the draft. So like you said, first win for the team. I can't thank them enough. They've just done an awesome job. They've prepared so well for this.
You know, they gave me the opportunity to make it happen, and got out front, got out front early, and was able to just keep it there for the rest of the race.
Had a really good car out there on my own, had a good balance. So was able to keep everybody behind me, and pull it out for the win there at the end.
Q. Did the number of cautions bother you at all? Was it tough to get into a driving rhythm?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, you know, I was running pretty good there with Arie on our own. We were pulling away from the rest of the pack I think for a while there before the first caution came out.
Obviously, it was extremely unfortunate that, you know, the caution came out because my teammate. So I was sorry to see that.
He was able to get good restarts. He was able to pull away on the restarts and then everybody would catch back up once we were up to full speed, so never got caught out by that. So it didn't end up making too much of a difference in the big picture.
Q. Did your car work best on the low side? It seemed on the high side people couldn't get it done once they got there?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Early on in the race the high seed seemed to be the place for me. I was able to go around the high side pretty easily. I had a big push behind other cars down at the bottom. But once I was on my own, it seemed like being on the bottom is where it was going to happen. And that makes it easier to keep people in check, kind of, behind you. So that's why I was sticking it down there.
Q. How did you get connected with Anderson Racing?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Well, I mean, it's a little bit of a long story. Back in 2006, I won the Formula 4, 2000 Championship run by Cape Motorsports, which was run by Dominic and Nicholas Cape. And they currently engineer and sort of run the RLR Anderson Racing Team. So I've always kept in touch with them.
They're obviously good guys. I've had a lot of success with them in the past. That year we won 12 out of 14 races or something. So this is, you know, sort of a homecoming with that respect.
Dan and John Anderson have been involved with Formula 4, 2000 series that I raced in, and it's just a really good group of guys. So it's hard not to keep in touch with people like that, basically.
This year it seemed like the Indy Lights Series recently renamed Indy Light Series with all the unification really seemed like the place to be, and that's proved to be the case. So, obviously I'm really glad with where everything's ended up.
Q. I think this is the first time the series has been here in like three years. What could you say about the quality of the racing? The fans hadn't seen you in a few years, and you guys were out there wheel to wheel basically from first back to 20th.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I mean, God, we came out here for the first couple of practice sessions on Friday, it was like being in the middle of the race. We had 15âcar packs driving around the track.
So I think it's definitely conducive to just really good, close racing. It's hard to pull away, so you end up with lots of cars close together. You know, there's two pretty legitimate lines around the track. You can run high, you can run low, and both of them are pretty fast. So I think it's a really cool circuit.
I'd be happy to come back. Obviously, we were quick, but just in terms of how the racing goes, I'd be happy to come back next year. I think it would be great.
Q. I just want to double check something. Is that your first oval track race ever?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yep.
Q. Is it difficult coming to a track like this where you've never run or going to any track you've never run? Logically, you've had good success here, but is that hard for a driver to go somewhere you've never been before?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I think it's a little bit of a different way to prepare for an oval versus a road course. A road course, in terms of just being on your own on the track, there's a little bit more involved that you have to adapt to and figure out where to break. You know, there's more corners. You've got to figure out a bunch of extra stuff out for the track to be fast.
Coming to a place like this, it really ended up being equally as difficult to get the package with the car and in and out of the draft, make everything so that you can get around the place. And so there's always sort of some little things that you end up picking up through the weekend that make it possible.
But I'd say that the fact that the team's done such a good job has made a huge difference in terms of how well us as drivers can get up to speed.
Q. (Asking about running on the high line of the track).
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Well, there at the beginning, like I said, my car seemed to be working better up high. You know, with other cars around me, I was able to stick up on the high line and keep it flat around the top. And I think Antinucci was having just a little bit of trouble staying low.
So I tried to kind of pin him down there so he couldn't use anymore of the track. And I was able to kind of truck by on the outside and then a caution came out. Later on, I was able to keep it there.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: The whole way around the track, I don't know.
Q. I think Kelly had mentioned this is the eighth fastest finish here or closest finish. Do you think it's the speed of open wheel racing that we will be able to sell this sport to Americans again and give it a popularity boost? Or do you think it's going to be more a case of personalities that have to sell it?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I mean, I think, you know, if you look at the success of NASCAR over the years, you see that kind of everything falls into place. So I don't think it's going to be any one thing in particular that's going to make it so that open wheel will totally be back on the map.
But I think that for us our races at pretty much any oval are why restrictor plate racing in NASCAR is so exciting is because they're always really close races and their cars are just hauling around the track.
Like our race today, obviously, the finish was really close between myself and Robbie in second. But the whole way back through the pack, all the cars are jammed together going 190 miles an hour the whole way around. So I think some combination of the speed, the closeness of the racing and getting to know the drivers a little bit better is what will make it happen.
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