An interview with J.R. Hildebrand Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today. Starting the call with...
An interview with J.R. Hildebrand
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today.
Starting the call with us is Firestone Indy Lights points leader J.R. Hildebrand.
J.R. is A rookie in Firestone Indy Lights driving for RLR/Andersen Racing. Earned his first career victory at Kansas at the end of April, comes into the Firestone Freedom 100 as the series point leader. Congratulations on a strong run so far this season, especially getting the win in the last race at Kansas.
Being the points leader as we head into Indianapolis, does that add any pressure to what you feel? Do you feel kind of like a marked man from other competitors?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yes and no. I think that we've been a little bit of a dark horse, just as a team this year so far. I signed up so late. And they had some mixed results last year that I think that on the whole like I said, say, from the perspective of the other teams and drivers, the public as well, that there were probably a lot - and from internally at the same time - I think there was a lot of question marks coming into the season where we would really stack up.
We've been able to show over the course of the first four races that we'll be right in the hunt. Now we're leading the points.
So certainly I'm glad to be able to be the one to do that and show everybody where we stand. But it's not really any added pressure. It's a big race for us in the Firestone Indy Light Series, being out here in Indianapolis. So there's definitely some pressure just given the prestige of the race.
But being a points leader coming in, you're able to come in with some confidence. The team is able to come in with some confidence. We had a really good test here back in March, I guess. So I'm really looking forward to it.
MODERATOR: Good. Tell us a little bit about what does it mean to you to be able to come in and race at Indianapolis?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It's huge. Growing up in California, I wasn't one of these guys that raced, came out to the race at Indy every year or anything like that.
But over the years I've been able to make the trip out here. And I've been living here for the last couple of them. And just walking into the place, I mean it hits you like a ton of bricks. No pun intended, but there's so much history here. And this is where our sport started, effectively.
It's a place like no other. And just being able to get out on track and in the practice session that we had here a little over a month ago, that really hit in a big way, I think, to all the competitors, particularly the ones that hadn't been here before, myself included. And so it's going to be a big race and a big weekend for us.
MODERATOR: I think we saw last year, I don't remember if you were here for the Freedom last year, but we had some surprising qualifiers, even with guys like Ken Losch and a start-up team able to start on the pole. So anything is possible.
Tell us more about the team you're with. Anderson is only in its second season in Firestone Indy Lights, but obviously very successful in other ranks of racing. Tell us a little bit about the team and having Andrew Prendeville, a guy around the series all last year and had success, as a teammate.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: There's definitely some things behind the scenes of RLR/Andersen Racing, some people behind the scenes especially that I think probably don't get their due credit.
But we've got the engineers, Dominic and Nicholas Cape, have been long-standing Formula 2000 team owners and operators. I actually won the 2006 Formula Ford 2000 championship with them in fairly dominant fashion. I mean myself, me and my teammates, my teammates and I that year, we were at the top of the charts every session. So I came into the team knowing that we've got the potential to, maybe we might not have the best cars right out of the gates, but we've got the potential to make them what they need to be, because we've got some really good people aboard.
The Andersens are great team owners. With a pair of brothers there up at the top of the food chain, so to speak, they're easy to deal with. They're really good guys. They're straight shooters, and they're in it to win.
They don't rely on auto racing to make their living. They just do it because they love it. And they're really great guys to work for. Andrew Prendeville as a teammate he's been awesome. He's always been fast. And they had some rough times last year, just being his first year back in a car in a little while, and being their first year as a team in the series, that I think that he showed quite well in terms of where they were at and what they can do.
He's just had some bad luck this year. He's been equally as fast as I've been pretty much everywhere we go. So he's really helpful. He knows the car. He's had certainly a lot more oval experience than I do coming into the season because he was a rookie last year.
And so the team chemistry is really quite good. So that helps us along just as much as anything else does.
Q: Do you think racing in the shadows of IndyCar helps you a great deal with any learning curves you face?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I think that racing, that's why we race in the Firestone Indy Light Series, because we can be out in front of the IndyCar crowd every time we race. Those are where all of us, certainly, that's certainly where I'm aspiring to get to. I think that's pretty much where everybody else in the series is aspiring to get to.
So to be able to be at the track, to get the inside scoop of what's going on, to be able to show what we can do in front of the team owners and managers and whatnot of the IndyCar Series is exactly where, it's exactly where I want to be and that's why Firestone Indy Lights became the clear choice for a series to be in this year.
Q: Do you feel you adjust fast to the challenges that you face? And do you think that's a trait that good race car drivers have to have?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It definitely is. I'm sort of adapting to a different environment is always something that I felt is a strong point of mine.
Obviously the biggest part of that this year is getting used to oval racing, and there's lots of things that go into obviously being fast on an oval and a lot of that is down to being with the right team and having the right engineers and having a great car.
But we've definitely been able to make it work in a short amount of time this year. And we've improved a lot from the beginning of the season. So I definitely say that that's a critical aspect of it.