Tuesday, July 07, 2009

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Hildebrand Charges to All-American Victory on July Fourth

Indianapolis, Ind. – July 6, 2009

J.R. Hildebrand, of Sausalito, California, made some fireworks of his own this July Fourth, charging from fourth on the grid to take a convincing victory in the Corning 100 at the historic Watkins Glen International Raceway. He and his Andretti Green/AFS Racing crew ran into trouble in qualifying, but turned their fortunes around by making several key decisions regarding their race setup that allowed him to overtake on the difficult circuit. The win, coupled with trouble for his championship rivals during the race, allowed Hildebrand to extend his points lead to a healthy 58 points over second-place Mario Romancini.

Hildebrand and his team hit the ground running in the first and only practice session, setting the pace for much of the session while working on a variety of setup items. Hildebrand again set the early pace in qualifying, but when he went out on his final set of new tires with just a few minutes remaining, he was badly held up in traffic and was only able to squeeze out a lap that was good for fourth position overall. The crew later determined that Hildebrand was also driving with less than full throttle for the duration of the session, adding to the difficulty to find the lap time he needed for pole.

“Qualifying was pretty frustrating,” Hildebrand admitted. “I thought that the car was pretty close and that I would be able to grab the pole, but at the end of the run I got caught between a handful of slower cars without much time left, and then overdrove the last two corners of the one lap that I had right at the end. It’s hard to quantify how much the extra ten-percent throttle may have been worth, but more than anything it was just frustrating that we probably could have been on pole anyway and didn’t make it happen.”

Heading into the race, Hildebrand and his crew knew they would be up against a difficult task of passing the three cars ahead of them. The circuit, while long and rather high speed, provides very few opportunities for overtaking. Knowing that their mechanical setup was strong, Hildebrand and his crew decided to roll the dice and take away downforce while putting in taller gear ratios to have a bit of extra speed at the end of the straights. They also made a few key adjustments to better look after their tires, knowing that they might wear faster with less downforce and grip. Once the race got underway, Hildebrand was able to use these tools to great effect, picking off each driver in front of him one by one at the end of the back straight and pulling away to a convincing victory.

“We were talking about everything before the race, especially after how qualifying ended up and I kept thinking to myself, ‘We cannot accept defeat today. We need to do whatever it takes to get into the lead,’” Hildebrand related. “It was a big gamble but a somewhat calculated one because I was pretty sure that I had the speed as long as I could keep it together, and it worked like a charm. It feels great to win here at the Glen on the Fourth of July. Everyone did a fantastic job; it was definitely a group effort through and through.”

Hildebrand will quickly switch gears, as the Firestone Indy Lights Series now heads to Toronto Canada this weekend for Round Nine on the streets of Toronto. Hildebrand claimed two victories in Toronto in 2006, in Formula Ford 2000 competition, so will be looking to carry his momentum there this weekend. He would like to thank ARPRO, Bald Spot Sports, The Racemaker Press, and Doug Mockett and Company for their continued support.

J.R. Hildebrand Racing
Web: JRHildebrandRacing.com

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hildebrand Wins at The Glen

J.R. Hildebrand won his second Indy Lights race of the season yesterday at the Glen.

Hildebrand passed polesitter James Davison with an inside move at the beginning of the Bus Stop on Lap 14 and held on through a final-lap restart to win his second race of the Firestone Indy Lights season.

"It doesn't get any better," the California native with the American flag atop his helmet said after winning the Corning 100 on the Fourth of July. "This race could have really not been at a better time for us. I knew we had a strong car going into this race. We were sitting there thinking, 'We cannot accept defeat today.' It's America's birthday. I can't be happier with it."