An Interview with J.R. Hildebrand Indy Racing League Teleconferene Transcript August 20, 2008 MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have three guests today. Joining us in a few minutes will be...
An Interview with J.R. Hildebrand
Indy Racing League Teleconferene Transcript
August 20, 2008
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have three guests today. Joining us in a few minutes will be Steve Page, president of Infineon Raceway and IndyCar Series driver Tomas Scheckter.
To start off today, we'll have Firestone Indy Lights driver J.R. Hildebrand. J.R. is wrapping up his rookie season in the Firestone Indy Lights. He is the driver of the RLR Andersen Racing No. 25 Allied Building Products car. A native of Sausalito, California, this weekend's doubleheader at Infineon is basically a home game for him.
J.R. three races to go. Talk about the year so far and your goals for the last two race weekends.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It's been sort of up and down for everybody. The title chase has been tough, I think probably from all aspects for a lot of different guys.
So from that perspective we've had just as much of that as anybody else. We started off this season really strong. Sort of culminating it at Indianapolis, leading the points going into that event with a win in Kansas.
We've had some great runs since then, but sort of some bad luck, some sort of bad sort of circumstantial stuff and some mistakes from me and from other people have put us a bit further back than we'd like to be right now.
But we've had really strong race cars all year long, and Chicago should be a good event for us from that perspective. We had good cars on the big tracks. And Infineon Raceway, being my home track, we'll look forward to having a really good event here.
Q: You mentioned it being your home track. You won a lot of races at Infineon, be it on the go-kart track or road course. How special would it be to win this weekend in the Firestone Indy Lights, add that to your trophies?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It would be big, man. I haven't actually gotten to race here that much over the last few years, just because the series hasn't come here. Obviously, I did the Infineon round last year at the Indy Light Series; that being my first experience in the car. But it would be big for us as a team to be able to pick up a road course. When we actually had a test day out at Putnam Park last week and made some big gains, the car really came to life.
So there were some things, for the way I want to drive the car, that I guess we'd been missing a little bit. And hopefully we'll have a better race car and my knowledge of the track will come in handy here and we'll have a good weekend.
Q: I saw a release that your team put out this week. You mentioned sleeping in your own bed, driving your own car to the track. I imagine you're going to have a lot of friends and family there, too. Is it that much more pressure knowing that mom and dad are going to be there and everyone else?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: No. You know, it's just that much more support that you get from everybody. We'll end up having a lot of people out here this weekend. A lot of my family is close by. I'm just really looking forward to it. The weather should be good. We're kind of back out on home turf, and I think it should be a really good weekend.
Q: This is a home race for you. What plans do you have outside the track this weekend?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Oh, man, that's a tough one. We've got a pretty busy schedule. A lot of it will be just kind of making sure I get to bed on time and get back out to the track. But we've got a lot of sponsors coming in from Allied, for Andersen Racing here this weekend. I'll certainly be getting together with them.
Hopefully just spending some time at home being able to kick back with the family a little bit.
Q: You've kind of fallen a little bit in the point standings from earlier this season. At this point in the season have you moved more into a mode like preparing for next year, or do you think you can climb back into and perhaps even win the championship in the Indy Light Series this year?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: As anybody can look at the point standings can see, there's a little bit of a gap to those guys up front. But, certainly, the next couple of races, like I said before, we should be strong the rest of the tracks we go to here. I think third in the points is without a doubt within striking distance. And we've got a doubleheader here. If either of those guys up front end up having some issues in the first race, that will put you at the back for the second race, and there's a lot of points to be gained and lost there.
So we're certainly not counting anything out. And so right now I guess I'd say myself, and the team included, are very much focused on finishing this year out strong and then sort of seeing where our options end up being at the end of the year.
Q: Infineon is really kind of a one-of-a-kind track. Tell me how you would prepare for a track like Infineon based on how physical it is and really how demanding it is on a driver.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It's demanding on the driver and on the cars. With as much elevation changes there is, and particularly the layout of the track that we run, the configuration, the IndyCar Series and the Indy Light Series run, there's kind of a vast mixture of corners and different types of things that as a driver and as a team you have to be prepared for.
So luckily for us we've got a test day coming up tomorrow afternoon that we'll be able to kind of familiarize ourselves with what we need to be doing as a team and what I need to be doing as a driver to really prepare for what's going on.
But it's definitely sort of a mentally and physically challenging track from that perspective, that there's a lot of different things you're dealing with. So that's where I guess I'd say I hope that my track knowledge and my experience out on the track will play into my hand a little bit, that I've got that -- I've sort of got that bank of knowledge, having run the different kinds of corners and being able to know how to approach those and what to be ready for.
Q: I know last year you did the doubleheader weekend in the Indy Lights car, but you didn't really get much time in the race. Do you know what to expect from the car still, despite the limited number of laps?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I think so. Last year, I think in both of the practice sessions last year, just the open practice, I don't think we were ever outside the top three. I think in the first one we third, maybe, and in the second one we were second.
So pretty much right away we were on pace, and then had some issues, some mechanical issues in qualifying that set us back for the first race and then got taken out in the first race to put me at the back for the second race. From that perspective, obviously, we had sort of an off weekend.
But the speed was there. And then I think just having driven the car all year long this year will have given me everything else I'm kind of going to need to know about what to expect from the car. It's definitely different. But the track knowledge plays a big part here.
So I'm just looking forward to it at this point. On the test day we can kind of wrap up any loose ends that we might have and then just get down to business on the weekend.
MODERATOR: I know your first season in the series is starting to wrap up here. Plans for '09 are starting to come into place. Do you have any idea of what the '09 plans are quite yet?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: You know, not really. Like I said, there's still a lot that can change by the end of this year just with the number of points that are still at stake and how close things are.
So at this point I think we're all just sort of focused on doing the best we can on sort of the task at hand right now. And then you've got a fairly long off season. I've certainly been talking to a lot of teams and getting a feel for what's going on up above and then also down here.
But I think there's a lot still to happen right now. And I guess I wouldn't expect anybody to be making any big moves until the season's actually over, because it's so close.
MODERATOR: J.R., thank you very much.