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Hildebrand Pads Points Lead with Second at Milwaukee

Firestone Indy Lights - Milwaukee, WI

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J.R. Hildebrand, of Sausalito, California, extended his championship points lead in the Firestone Indy Lights Series this weekend with a second-place finish at the historic Milwaukee Mile Raceway. Hildebrand and his Andretti Green/AFS Racing team showed strong pace all weekend, topping the combined practice charts and qualifying on the outside of the front row before running away with polesitter Mario Romancini to finish well clear of the rest of the field.

Hildebrand worked diligently with his team in the two practice sessions leading up to qualifying on Saturday morning in an attempt to make the most out of their car's setup for both qualifying and Sunday's race. They made numerous changes to the car throughout the sessions, adjusting for both the track and windy weather conditions, eventually finishing atop the combined practice time sheets. Everyone felt quite confident going into qualifying on Saturday afternoon, but were also banking on a bit of wind to match with the gearing that they had agreed on. When qualifying finally began, the wind had died down from earlier in the day, but they stuck with their plan and wound up on the outside of Row One.

"We were heavily debating what gear to run in qualifying," related Hildebrand afterward. "Since it had been windy, we had decided on a shorter gear because we thought it would help the car accelerate through the headwind down the front straight and also through the corners. The wind died right before we went out, and I think that the taller gear would have been the right choice. The car was good enough for pole I think, but we didn't want to risk what we knew would be a front row spot. I guess hindsight is 20-20, I think there was a bit more speed out there, but I knew our racecar was good."

Starting from the front row, Hildebrand quickly slotted into second and kept pace with the leader while driving away from the rest of the field. On a long caution-free stint through the middle of the race, Hildebrand had really sorted out where his car would work best on the tough circuit and caught up to within a second of Romancini who was catching lapped traffic. He looked as though he might have the speed to get by, only to be thwarted by another caution period. From that point forward, the race was stopped and started a variety of times for accidents on course and Hildebrand couldn't make his ARPRO #26 car quite good enough on the shorter runs to seriously challenge for the lead.

"The car was really good in comparison to the others on long runs," Hildebrand said. "We just ended up with sort of a choppy second half of the race and I was really starting to battle understeer sitting there behind Romancini for so long. I think if I had been able to get in front and get in some clean air I would have been able to get away, but I had been so close in second for so long that I couldn't help but wear the front tires out a little too much. I was excited to have a good finish at the Mile though. It's a treacherous place, and we're looking good in the points, which is an added bonus."

The Firestone Indy Lights Series will now take a small break before the next event at Iowa Speedway on June 20th. Hildebrand would like to thank his Andretti Green/AFS Racing team, along with ARPRO, Bald Spot Sports, The Racemaker Press, and Doug Mockett and Company for their continued support.

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