J.R. Hildebrand, the 23 year-old from Sausalito, CA returns to his hometown as the leading rookie in the IndyCar Series. He is set to race in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma this Sunday, at Infineon Raceway, a track where he attended the Jim Russell Racing School and won the Sprint Kart Series championship at age 14. He lists Infineon as one of his favorite tracks, as well as Road Atlanta and Indianapolis. Perhaps, the reason why, is that J.R. has won there at every level on his climb to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
In 2009, driving in the Firestone Indy Lights Series for Michael Andretti, he won the pole and the race in Sonoma on his way to 4 wins and the series championship. Last year at Infineon, JR raced for the first time in an IndyCar and was involved in a crash on lap 38 and finished in 24th place. This year, with a lot more experience and a great Panther Racing team behind him he hopes to get that first career IndyCar win.
J.R. drives the No. 4 National Guard car for Panther Racing and is currently in 13th place in the 2011 points standings. He has led the rookie points standings pretty much all year. His best finish of the year was the now famous, 2nd place run in the Indy 500. With only 5 races left in his rookie year, J.R. would really like to get into the win column here in Northern California.
Last week, some of the IZOD IndyCar series drivers including J.R. Hildebrand took part in a full day of testing at Infineon Raceway. Fans as well as Media were treated to a Press Conference in the tracks Panasonic Technologies Media Center. In attendance at the press conference was my friend, Lindi Bess, a columnist at SkirtsandSkuffs.com. Lindi was kind enough to provide us with this short excerpt as well as some nice photos.
JR Hildebrand was asked, “Its been an interesting rookie season, you’ve had an opportunity to improve yourself in alot of different venues, but where you’ve shown the brightest is the ovals, would you care to comment on that?”
“It’s obviously because I’m an awesome oval driver….(laughs) Our team has a long history of being an accomplished oval team and that played a big role in it. I think our focus because of that has flip flopped a little to try and improve our road course situation. We don’t always come into places with pole sitting data from the year before so that makes it a little tough to figure out just what we need to do but we’ve definitely been doing a lot of things over the last two, three road course weekends in particular to try to start remedying that situation and I certainly think we are on the upswing with it. Its really been nice to have those races that we’ve been competitive in. Its a shame last weekend (New Hampshire) that we weren’t able to complete the race because we ended up with the a really quick race car for the long runs but its just kinda the nature of how it goes and I’d be happy to admit that I’m still learning and figuring things out so all in all we’ve had a really strong season for being a one car team and its been my rookie year. Hopefully I can continue figuring things out and we continue to get better from here.”
On Wednesday, J.R. was interviewed on the Grant Napear show on Sports 1140 in Sacramento. He talked about what it’s like to be back home in his native Northern California, as well as his mentality following his crash during the Indy 500. He also talked about his beloved San Francisco Giants, as well as the 49ers and possibly taking new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh (a part owner of Panther Racing) on a ride around Infineon. To listen to the very interesting interview, click here.
For a complete listing of J.R Hildebrand’s race statistics please visit his driver page at www.racing-reference.info.
The Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma can be seen Sunday at 1:00 pm PDT on the Versus network.