Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach Postrace Transcript
April 19, 2009
An interview with J.R. Hildebrand, Richard Philippe and James Hinchcliffe
THE MODERATOR: J.R., welcome back. You were here yesterday. This is your first win for 2009. Second career win. Just looked like another Sunday drive in Long Beach out there; was it?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: No, we just had a great car, and that makes my job a little easier. So we were really good in practice. Made a lot of changes that I think started toward the end of practice on Friday. We really got the car under ourselves, and we've been quickest since then.
The boys have done a great job. I actually nicked the wall on the first lap going into it. I drilled the wall on the first lap going around the hairpin. But I was a little bit concerned about it after that.
But everything ended up okay, and it didn't throw anything off too bad, I guess, so I think the car was just great from beginning to end. I think what we showed in practice the first day was just that our long-run pace was as good as our short-run pace, really. And so I owe a lot of that to the (Firestone) Firehawks and to the boys for making the car as good as it was.
THE MODERATOR: This was your first Top 5. And your brother, Nelson, won this three times with the Champ Car. Did you call him before the race and say how do I do this, or what?
RICHARD PHILIPPE: Well, I was here in 2006, so I was good.
THE MODERATOR: How did you like the course today?
RICHARD PHILIPPE: It was good, it was good. The race was pretty long. I thought there would be more yellow, actually. It was pretty good. J.R. said he nicked the wall, but it looked really bad from where James and I were.
But thanks to J.R., I was able to get a run on James, because I thought J.R. was going to go into a spin. So James had to back off quite a bit, and I got a run on him and got into turn one. After that it was pretty simple, pretty straightforward. We stayed like that the whole race.
Toward the end James caught up a little bit and put a little pressure on me. But he was still quite a few ways away. But it was a pretty easy race.
THE MODERATOR: That's cool. James, how about you?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't think you can ever call one of these races easy. We made a good start, and Richard started to get down in the hair pin there with J.R., I just backed off because I thought for sure he was going around.
So, dude, good car control. You must have given a dollar to some person on the street, because you had some good karma with you today.
But from there, Richard got the run. And like Richard said, I was expecting to come more yellows as well. I was biding my time and expecting a restart, and it never came.
So we had a good green run, and I decided to put the pressure on, and catch up back up to Richard and save my tires for the end. We were able to close the gap a little bit, but ultimately it wasn't enough. It was good to see how the Firestones held up through the race though.
From where we started on Friday, it's great to be up here on the podium. Huge credit to the SSM guys, because we really struggled when we rolled off the trailer, and it was a great effort to get us up here on the podium today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the drivers.
Q: J.R., you're running for Andretti Green. Kind of continue the streak that they had last year. What does that mean to you for that?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Well, I mean certainly stepping in the championship winning car or a championship winning team, for that matter, there's a lot of sort of expectation that we'll be quick, and I think we've shown that we are. Had we not had some electrical problems at St. Pete, I think we might be 3 for 3 if not 2 for 3 certainly here.
You know, we've just got incredible pace. The cars are really good, and like I said earlier, that makes my job a lot easier. Along with that, coming to places like this where we've never been before, I've got a bit of time in an Atlantic car around here. But that doesn't transfer over much in terms of set-ups and stuff like that.
You know, rolling off the trailer we were still able to make the car as good as it was. We didn't roll off -- we rolled off with a P4, P5 kind of car and ended up running away, kind of long running cars like we had here today.
The boys just do a great job. There's a reason they won the championship last year. And I think that helped put us in a good position to be in the hunt at the beginning of the year this year.
Q: Well, you're heading off to the midwest now. You've had some success there last year, J.R., do you think you can continue that this year?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, going to Kansas. That is the site of my first Indy Lights win. It was last year, obviously. You know, it's just I think we've got a really strong oval program as well. And I've got some time around there, and I've had some success. We know how to win races on the big tracks.
So I'll definitely be looking forward to getting on the ovals and kind of trying out the AGR or the AFS car. And I think that we'll have a lot of success from here on out.
The Homestead test didn't go quite as well as we had planned. But we were trying a bunch of stuff. And we have tested since then, and we've been the quickest car out there. So I think that we'll be looking for a long streak of this, and looking forward to it.
Q: The other two drivers made reference to this. The last half of the race was a long green run. Was there at any point during that second half of the race where you felt challenged? Or was it smooth sailing for you from about lap 25 on?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: At that point it's more about sort of challenging yourself. I gapped Richard a little bit. And we were staying fairly constant there. And so it's just sort of a challenge to stay focused and continue running consistent laps.
And so towards the end I tried pushing a little bit harder just so I could kind of keep that task at hand as my main priority. You know, we were able to pull away a little bit there towards the end even as the track was getting greasier.
We were able to run the same times. So that helped me to just continue to stay focused and keep going was to push a little bit at the end.
It seemed like once we got past lap 35 or so, it was probably going to go green the rest of the way. Unless somebody made a mistake at the back of the pack. Didn't seem like there were too many heavy battles going on mid pack. So I just tried to put my head down and keep it together till the end.
Q: Was there at any point during the race where you felt you could have caught up to J.R. and maybe give him a run?
RICHARD PHILIPPE: The restarts, obviously, I was trying to put some pressure. But to be very honest, no. I just did my job. I tried to push as hard as I could. And he was just a bit better than us today.
We're a first-year team. It's my first year in the Indy Lights car. So I think our job is respectable. And, hopefully towards the end of the year he can be following us.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you for being here, and good luck in Kansas.