J.R. Hildebrand Comes Home to Race at Infineon Raceway

J.R. Hildebrand drives the No. 4 National Guard car for Panther Racing.

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. Hildebrand on the track at Infineon Raceway.

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.

J.R. Hildebrand answers questions at Infineon Raceway. Photo courtesy of Lindi Bess of SkirtsandSkuff.com.

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.”

J.R. Hildebrand in his National Guard Helmet.

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.

FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals Tickets Now Available at O’Reilly Auto Parts Stores

Race fans looking for a great deal on FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals tickets need look no further than their local O’Reilly Auto Parts dealer. Infineon Raceway has partnered with O’Reilly on an exclusive ticket offer for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series’ visit to the Sonoma Valley, July 29-31.

With more than 200 stores in Northern California, there are plenty of places for fans to pick up the special O’Reilly Flex Ticket.

It’s a reserved ticket for either Friday, Saturday OR Sunday for one low price of only $45. That’s a savings of up to $15!

It’s sure to be a special weekend on the Infineon Raceway drag strip, as the stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series hit the track for three full days of racing, and the NHRA celebrates its 60th anniversary.

To find your local O’Reilly store, click HERE and for more information about the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway, go to www.infineonraceway.com/nhra. We’ll see you at the races!

A.J. Allmendinger Finishes 13th But It Could Have Been Worse

A.J. Allmendinger from Los Gatos, CA.
AJ Allmendinger, from Los Gatos, CA, the driver of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion came home to Northern California to race on Sunday at Infineon Raceway. It was a tough race with a lot of “beatin & bangin” so he was pleased to come out with a 13th place finish. Here is the report on the race from Richard Petty Motorsports.

• AJ Allmendinger started in the seventh position Sunday afternoon at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California
• Allmendinger finished the 110-lap race in the 13th position
• Unofficially, Allmendinger sits in 15th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings

Race Summary: AJ Allmendinger lined up for the start of the season’s first road course event in the seventh place. As soon as the green flag waved for the start of the 224-mile race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Allmendinger began his charge toward the front of the pack. By the time the field came
around to complete the first lap, Allmendinger had driven the Best Buy Ford Fusion into the top five.

Early radio communication between driver and crew was that the Richard Petty Motorsports Ford needed more rear grip. Crew Chief Mike Shiplett called for air pressure and wedge adjustments during the first pit stop of the day, which came on Lap 21 of the 110-lap race. Allmendinger remained in the top 10 throughout the first half of the event but lost some ground after getting tagged by the No. 2 car and spun around on Lap 65. The San Jose, Calif. native fell to 22nd in the following laps and drove to the attention of his crew for a scheduled pit stop at Lap 75. Shiplett called for another wedge adjustment to the car in an effort to assist his driver with the handling of the machine.

The No. 43 Best Buy Ford driven by A.J. Allmendinger.
The No. 43 Best Buy Ford held down the 20th position when the yellow flag flew for an on-track incident involving the No. 14 car at Lap 88. During the ensuing extended caution period, Allmendinger relayed to Shiplett that the car was lacking side bite in the esses and rear grip. Shiplett called for the addition of a spring rubber in the right rear and four fresh tires during the Lap 89 pit stop. Allmendinger settled in for the restart in the 23rd spot.

Allmendinger began his charge to the front with 15 laps to go. One by one he picked off his competitors and with only 10 laps remaining in the race, had worked his way back into the top 15. Wheeling one of the fastest cars on the track in the closing laps, Allmendinger took the checkered flag in 13th place.

Allmendinger picked up two positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings following the race in Sonoma. He now holds down 15th place heading to Daytona (Daytona Beach, Fla.) International Speedway next weekend.

Allmendinger’s Thoughts After the Race: “That was crazy just like always. The Best Buy Ford was pretty good, but from mid-race on we were kind of loose. Everybody was running into each other out there. I got into a couple guys and got them angry and then I had one guy dump me. I just tried to keep fighting. We are getting there. If we can get some luck on our side, we might actually be up front where we deserve to finish. It could have been a lot worse and 13th isn’t great, but it could have been a lot worse with 20 laps to go.”

Next Race Information
Date: July 2, 2011
Track: Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida)
Laps: 160 Laps/400 Miles
TV Information: 4:30 p.m. PT on TNT
Radio Information: 4:30 p.m. PT on MRN and Sirius Radio
Qualifying: Friday, July 1 at 1:10 p.m. PT on SPEED

To keep up to date on AJ’s latest stats please visit his driver page at www.racing-reference.info.