J.R. Hildebrand took the fast path to the IZOD Indy Car Series, using record-setting seasons in USF2000 to blaze a trail to the Toyota Atlantic and Firestone Indy Lights series on his way to Indy Cars.
Sunday, the young Californian took a look at life on what is considered the other side of the open-wheel ladder as he took in a USAC race at Kokomo Speedway – and it didn’t take long for the hyper-competitive Hildebrand to long for a chance to run the tricky sprint cars.
“I’ve always wanted to run sprint, midgets or silver crowns – on dirt or pavement,” Hildebrand said. “I’ve talked to (Brian) Clausen’s dad about jumping into one sometime soon. A lot of the crew guys around the (IndyCar) paddock are into it, and I’ll be surprised if I haven’t driven one at some point before the end of the year. It just takes so much raw talent to drive one of those cars, and that has a definite appeal to me.”
The Sausalito, California native never experienced much dirt-track racing on his way through his travels with his family to various tracks as he was growing up. But once he experienced it in person, the high-speed dirt track racing you see at places like Kokomo has the National Guard driver intrigued.
I’ve always wanted to run sprint, midgets or silver crowns – on dirt or pavement. I’ll be surprised if I haven’t driven one at some point before the end of the year
“I’ve been to some dirt-track stuff before, but it’s not something I grew up watching,” JR explained. “I hadn’t seen a sprint car race in a long time, and that was cool. Over the last five years I’ve become more accustomed to our version of ovals, but you see elements that translate to the sprint cars, but it’s still way different for those guys. But to be able to go up to Kokomo and see guys like Clausen and Levi Jones running up there is pretty legit.”