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Firestone Indy Lights: Chicagoland 100

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Chicagoland 100

Firestone Indy Lights: Chicagoland 100

J.R. Hildebrand
August 29, 2009


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our fifth place finisher in tonight's race, J.R. Hildebrand, and now officially the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion. That's got to sound good, doesn't it?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I could get used to that title, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about your run out there today.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Man, I'm sure the guys that were up here a minute ago told you, but it was just craziness out there all race long. I was kind of thinking -- we were sitting in the back, we were quick in practice this morning, good in traffic, just had some good tow laps and stuff, this will be a piece of cake to start passing cars.
But when they're four wide every lap in front of you, there's nowhere to go. So it was a long, hard race. I think there was a lot of white knuckles coming in out of the cars at the end. But I'm really happy for all the guys, the crews did an awesome job. We've had kind of bum luck on these one-and-a-half-mile ovals, so hopefully we can turn that part around at Homestead.
THE MODERATOR: You gave Andretti Green AFS Racing their second consecutive Lights championship. They won it last year with Rafael Matos, as well.

Q. Michael Andretti has been pretty high on you. Has there been discussion of getting you in the big car much for next season?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I mean, nothing real substantial. With sort of ownership roles changing there, I think it needs a little bit of time to get that sorted out. What Danica is going to do probably has a big effect on where a lot of people go this year. It looks like she's going to stay now, and so we've just got to kind of sort some things out in the off-season.
But for me as a driver, I'd love nothing more than to be able to move up within this organization. So we'll see what happens.

Q. After lap 32 where the three cars wrecked, at that point you officially were still running and had the championship clinched. Could you talk about how your strategy may or may not change then at that point during the race out there today?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Well, I mean, my strategy at that point was not to crash, and my strategy from that point forward continued to be not to crash. So it didn't really change that much.

Q. Were you thinking about going for it a little bit?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I mean, it was just, I don't normally say this and it wouldn't be something else I've said or at any other track we go to, but I was really hanging on and tying tore opportunistic about where guys were going. But it was a really, really tough racetrack to get by guys out there. It was pretty easy for some of the quick guys to stay on the bottom all lined up, which makes it really hard to get any momentum heading around to the outside. So I was able to kind of pick a couple guys off, get up to the front, but once I got up there, I wasn't really going to make any headway. So I decided to just try to roll it in.
It was unfortunate actually that we ended up getting into the situation that we were, that I was so backed up, because my teammate and I -- I was trying at that point, because I had it locked up, that I was hoping to help my teammate out a little bit. But he got caught up on a bad run, so I went around him, and then from that point on it was really hectic up there. So that was unfortunate, but hopefully going to Homestead we can do a little bit better job of that.
THE MODERATOR: J.R., one thing I've got to ask and maybe you can share with the room here, your teammates have given you the nickname Captain America. Can you give us a little background on that?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It was not a self-given nickname, so they just were -- it's been a little while since an American has won this --
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, so it's been a few years. You know, we've got a lot of American guys on the team. We're an American team as it is, and we're racing in the good ol' U.S. of A. So it's been kind of fun to kind of root for the hometown crowd, I guess, for the boys.
I think it all actually kind of started when my engineer was walking through Target to get some underwear or something, and he walks through the -- maybe in one of the shelves or something, he saw in the toy aisle they had this little Captain America figure doll guy or whatever, action figure let's say, and so he picked it up thinking, oh, that's pretty cool, maybe we can do something with this.
And then he brought it back to the shop, and then the fab guys, as they are, whipped up a little fan for us, so we threw it on the car, and that's kind of where the nickname came from.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, and we'll see you at Homestead in a couple weeks.

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