Monday, April 25, 2022

Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Driver's Preview WeatherTech Raceway Event

ACURA Grand Prix Of Long Beach DPi Class race start at Turn 1. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2022)

Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Driver's Preview WeatherTech Raceway Event

The overall fourth event weekend in the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season rolls into the Monterey Bay area to take over the Laguna Seca venue in a reset of a Springtime event timeframe. The last three years, when the INDYCAR Series finale was moved from Sears Point's Sonoma Raceway, saw a push to try to put IMSA Sportscars and NTT INDYCARS open-wheel racing on successive weekends in September but after a two year run at this set up, it was probably best for track management and the separate series to carry these events on a stand alone basis.

To some of the enthusiasts, it seemed smart to secure a campsite and live in the Monterey Bay area, tied to the dirt, but so much for glamping. It was fun while it lasted but now folks can get down to brass tacks and focus, focus, focus just one weekend on DPi (focus), GTD PRO (focus), and GTD (focus) competitors and cars.

Drivers of these three classes sat down and participated in arranged virtual press conferences via the ZOOM Call technology and format with a plan for three drivers for each class held on separate days for each of the classes. 

A line of questions made themselves clear to Motorsports Journal when DPi ACURA driver from Wayne Taylor racing pointed out one of the challenging characteristics in the driving surface of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is the maturity of the asphalt which creates tire wear and has the surface be a little slick in response. The next three clips start at a point where this topic is discussed by most all of the participating drivers. This is a great listen when one has the time and focus of a drive from Southern California to the Salinas Valley and beyond.

A Zoom interview held April 19 with select DPi drivers previewing the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul, April 29-May 1, 2022.
ZOOM Call Time: Tuesday, April 19, 2022 | 2 p.m. ET
** Alex Lynn, co-driver of the No. 02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
** Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi
** Tristan Vautier, co-driver of the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R

18:18 - Ricky Taylor - Talking about Laguna Seca and track conditions. Just click and listen.

A Zoom interview held April 21 with select GTD PRO drivers previewing the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul, April 29-May 1, 2022.
ZOOM Call Time: Thursday, April 21, 2022 | 1 p.m. ET
** Antonio Garcia, co-driver of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD
** Mathieu Jaminet, co-driver of the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R
** (Scheduled/Missed Call) Cooper MacNeil, co-driver of the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

19:23 - Mathieu Jaminet, in responding to a question about track surface. Just click and listen.

A Zoom interview held April 25 with select GTD drivers previewing the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul, April 29-May 1, 2022 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
ZOOM Call Time: Monday, April 25, 2022 | 2 p.m. ET
** Mike Skeen, co-driver of the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
** Ryan Hardwick, co-driver of the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R
** Bryan Sellers, co-driver of the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3

14:53 - Mike Skeen, in responding to a question about track surface. Just click and listen.

Context is everything, but the most important understanding, is that sportscars, racing in multiple classes at the same time, deliver one of the most satisfying racing experiences one can receive in modern motor culture. The Monterey Peninsula provides the best of backdrops geographically anywhere in North America for one to immerse themselves in Touring, Eating, Camping, Carmel-ing, or just plain multiple class IMSA professional sportscar racing (tickets) on a surface that helps to separate true competitors from simple drivers.

... notes from The EDJE


TAGS: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship, DPi. GTD PRO, GTD, Class Racing, Presented by Motul, April 29 - May 1, 2022, The EDJE

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Stuttgart-Based H2FLY Sets New World Record For Hydrogen-Electric Passenger Aircraft

Stuttgart-Based H2FLY Sets New World Record For Hydrogen-Electric Passenger Aircraft

On April 12th, 2022, H2FLY, the Stuttgart-based developer of hydrogen fuel cell technologies for aircraft, announced that its demonstrator aircraft, the HY4, set what is believed to be a new world record last week for hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft, flying at an altitude of 7,230 feet and confirming the company's position as one of the leading companies in this new sector.

The news comes as the company also flew a 77-mile journey between Stuttgart and Friedrichshafen on this day of April 12th, marking the first time a hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft has been piloted, between two major airports.

Commenting Prof. Dr. Josef Kallo, co-founder and CEO of H2FLY said "This is a remarkable achievement for H2FLY, as no other hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft has flown between two commercial airports to date. We are also thrilled to have set what we believe to be a new world record by reaching an altitude of over 7,000 feet with our HY4 aircraft. We want to thank our long-time partners Stuttgart Airport, University of Ulm, DLR Stuttgart, Friedrichshafen Airport, and AERO Friedrichshafen, for supporting us in our mission to make sustainable travel a reality."

The aircraft flew the mission to Friedrichshafen in order to participate in the AERO Friedrichshafen airshow, taking place from April 27th. The HY4 will be presented to the general public for the first time and will be exhibited until the end of April. Up to now, testing of the HY4 as taken place exclusively in the test area around Stuttgart Airport. Stuttgart Airport is a long-term partner of H2FLY and plays a key role in supporting the company with it's infrastructure.

Walter Schoefer, Speaker of the Board of Flughafen Stuttgart GmbH concluded: "We are delighted that HY4 has achieved this next technical milestone. This is another step on the long road of the aviation transformation process towards a more climate-friendly air transport. We see hydrogen-electric engines as the key to zero-emission flying and have therefore been promoting the HY4 project for many years. As a ‘fairport’, we want to continue to be a pioneer and enabler for the next steps when it comes to sustainability.”

Claus-Dieter Wehr, Managing Director of Friedrichshafen Airport commented: "In the airport's more than one-hundred-year history, this is the first time a hydrogen-powered aircraft has landed here in Friedrichshafen. We are very pleased that we can thus play our part in the further development and testing of hydrogen-electric propulsion. Particularly in view of the numerous projects on sustainable mobility in aviation, I see great opportunities for the Friedrichshafen site to create the framework conditions for innovative aviation companies and to attract them here.”

The four-seat HY4 has successfully demonstrated the applicability of hydrogen-electric propulsion solutions in aviation during several flight campaigns and with more than 90 takeoffs. It also serves as a test platform to further develop the propulsion system and thus lay the foundation for development work on a hydrogen-electric-powered, 40-seat Dornier 328, which will be developed jointly with Deutsche Aircraft by 2025.

"Sustainable aviation is the central topic at this year's AERO Friedrichshafen. We are, therefore, really pleased that Prof. Dr. Kallo and his team from H2FLY are celebrating a trade show world premiere at AERO Friedrichshafen with the HY4 hydrogen-electric aircraft. For more than ten years, we have been showcasing innovations from the field of electric aviation as part of the e-flight-expo. With the AERO Sustainable Aviation Trail, we are illustrating how innovative the entire general aviation sector and this year's AERO are with over 75 registered exhibitors on this sustainability trail in 11 exhibition halls," as stated by Head of AERO Roland Bosch and Show Director - Tobias Bretzel, AERO Friedrichshafen.

Sustainability in aviation also plays a significant role for Friedrichshafen Airport and this year's AERO, one of the world's most important aviation trade shows with more than 600 exhibitors from 35 nations. H2FLY will be represented at the air show from April 27 to 30 with its booth and the HY4 in Hall A7. In addition, H2FLY co-founder and CEO Prof. Dr. Josef Kallo will hold the presentation "Powered by Hydrogen H2FLY - Emission-Free Flying" as a featured speaker at the "IASA Conference - GREENER SKIES AHEAD The Future of Regional Aviation Pioneering Sustainable Air Transport" on April 27 from 11:00 a.m. CET.
[ht: H2FLY]

... notes from The EDJE



TAGS: H2FLY, HY4, Stuttgart, Friedrichshafen, 77 miles, 7,230 feet, AERO Friedrichshafen airshow, The EDJE

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

IMSA DPi Cadillac's Westbrook, Derani, & ACURA's Albuquerque Share Thoughts On Race 03 At Long Beach Streets

Wayne Taylor Racing's No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi at the apex of the famed passing turn at the end of the Seaside Straight, Firestone Turn 9. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2021)

IMSA DPi Cadillac's Westbrook, Derani, & ACURA's Albuquerque Share Thoughts On Race 03 At Long Beach Streets

A ZOOM Call interview was held on March 29 with select DPi drivers to preview the third race of the season held on the temporary street course at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 8-9, 2022.

The 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit encircles the Long Beach Convention Center and runs down scenic Shoreline Drive. It offers numerous overtaking opportunities, including Turn 1 (Toyota) - Turn 6 (Tecate Turn) - Turn 8 - Turn 9 (Firestone) - but getting the hairpin Turn 11, just before the frontstretch, right is critical as this sets up Turn 1.

Richard Westbrook, co-driver of the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R, Pipo Derani, co-driver of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, and Filipe Albuquerque, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi remain excited over competing through the concrete canyons on the shores of the Pacific Ocean during Southern California's primary rites-of-spring event.


In advance of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race April 9 on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit in Long Beach, California, Pipo Derani (No.31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R) -- who co-drove to the 2021 victory to lead a Cadillac sweep of the podium -- and Richard Westbrook (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R), co-driver of the DPi championship points-leading team, met with the media March 29 via Zoom conference.

RICHARD WESTBROOK (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R):

“It’s going to be incredibly tough, obviously. Going into the third round that starts off at Daytona, a completely different circuit, and then the polar opposite going to Sebring and then completely different yet again going to Long Beach. I feel like every time I’m going to a new track with this car – the track I know but it’s the first time in this car – it’s almost like I’ve never been there before because the car is so different than a GT and the last time I raced in prototype. It’s a massive learning curve, but there’s a lot you can take from Sebring to Long Beach setup-wise and we obviously had a good car there. I’m quietly confident and just really pleased to get the 36 hours of Florida out of the way because that was my target – to get through those two events and get some decent points on the board, learn as much as I can, try to fit into the team as best I can and get myself a platform for the short-race season. That’s what we’ve done. To come out of those two rounds with leading the championship, I sort of have to pinch myself. Obviously, it’s early days and lots of race to go, but we’ve given ourselves a good platform. I’m looking forward to Long Beach, but a completely different challenge.”

“Street circuit qualifying is nuts. You have to sort of go to places that you don’t really want to go to in practice. You have to step out for sure and take the car past its limit in some way. I prefer to be finishing that race.”

“I guess the last two corners because when you have sections of circuits where you can give up a little bit to have a good run through the last corners – where you can sacrifice a bit to gain something somewhere else. That whole last section where you’ve got the right and then the long left and then the final hairpin, you can go quicker in one but you’re going to have to sacrifice in the next. It’s sort of connecting the three and I like that sort of challenge in any circuit. We turn up for the first practice at 9 o’clock in the morning and it’s kind of a meaningless session because you’re just cleaning the circuit and the track just evolves, evolves and it’s a completely different circuit come race day. I remember that race day is normally quicker (lap times) than qualifying because the track just continues to evolve. You have to be ready for that. You sort of have to adapt yourself. You can’t go into each session with the mindset that ‘I need to improve in that corner, maybe I’ll try that.’ The track next session is completely different, so you have to be open-minded in how you set out to work. I’ve never won at Long Beach, so it's about time I did.”

“When you get a new teammate, the first few races you’re sort of working out what does he like to eat, where are we going to have dinner tonight. It’s getting used to all that stuff. The chemistry with Tristan (Vautier) and Loic (Duval) has been really strong. We’re definitely working toward the same goal in terms of setup on the car; we like a similar setup. For me, it’s only going to get stronger. I can’t say enough about Tristan. I’ve been super pleased with how he performs, and his one-lap pace is incredible. Hopefully, he puts that to good use all year.”

PIPO DERANI (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R):

“Long Beach last year was definitely a key moment in our championship. It was a fantastic race because the year before we almost won the race; in the end we wound up losing the wheel after leading the race up to the last pit stop. To capitalize last year and make sure we win that one when it slipped away the year before was great. Long Beach is a great track to drive. The event is a fantastic together with INDYCAR to have a lot of fans around. A street track is always challenging to be so close to the walls. It’s going to be again a very challenging and a very tight field and difficult race to win as usual in IMSA. Our Cadillac DPi runs really well at that track. Looking forward to it with a new teammate Tristan (Nunez). He’s driven there before and hopefully he’ll hit the ground running with the Cadillac. After two races under his belt, he’s getting more used to the Cadillac DPi. I’m looking forward to heading west and having our two races there at Long Beach and then later at Monterrey.”

“I think last year was a little bit chaotic in the beginning for us. I’d like to think this year has started much smoother than last year. Last year, we had a gearbox problem at Daytona, a horrible Sebring and we made our lives very difficult toward the end of the season to win the championship the way we did. I think we won the championship by 11 points, so it was really tight and difficult to overcome the difficult beginning. This year, not ideal to finish fourth at Daytona, but getting our first podium at Sebring I think we are much closer to the championship leaders than we were last year. Of course, we would like to be further up. There’s no philosophy in starting slow and trying to finish strong. I think a championship is built not only on the second half of the season but trying to make sure you get the points early on as well. The championship is so strong; we had a really strong race at Daytona this year and came up short at the end when it counted. We didn’t quite have the pace in the last 30 minutes and there were three cars that were stronger than us that finished ahead of us. In a championship, we try to maximize points when we can. If we can’t win, then take second or third or even fourth. I think we’re within 30 or 40 points from the lead so better than last year. Hopefully, it’s a good beginning to be stronger toward the rest of the championship.”

“It shows the diversity of the championship. You go from Daytona – very big track – to Sebring – very bumpy track – and then to a street track in California. I think it brings something to the championship and for the teams to adapt quickly to these changes. They are great tracks to drive; each have their own peculiarity. Daytona being the beginning of the season and so many long straights and then going to Sebring, a track that was so strong for Cadillac. You have a brand like Acura that dominated at Daytona and then Cadillac dominating at Sebring. And now going into Long Beach – a track that has been quite even between the two manufacturers over the last few years. We got pole position last year and won the race. It’s great to have such a great combination of tracks where you have to keep yourself and your team on your toes and do the best job possible to stay ahead.”

“It’s a track that is hard to pass. Also, you can get a little bit lucky because you see others making mistakes, hitting the walls and eventually you can be a little bit lucky with a yellow, but you don’t want to count on that at all. In an hour, 40-minute race, I think you need to maximize your chances and that starts with qualifying. That’s the beauty of the sport; you have to put it together early and hope that the race stays green.”

“I think Cadillac has shown to be very good when the track is bumpy. Not last year, but the year before Acura qualified on pole with a Penske car and I think they had the pace to win just like we did. Last year, it seemed like we had some advantage over the Wayne Taylor car and the Shank car, but they seemed to have stepped up this year in terms of performance, so I’m expecting a close fight. But the Cadillac is a fantastic car over the bumps. We saw that at Sebring. It’s a car that copes well with a bump track and normally street tracks tend to be a little bit more bumpy than a normal track. I think this is one of the strong points of our Cadillac DPi and hopefully we can use that to our advantage over the race weekend at Long Beach.”

“A fun part of Long Beach is the roundabout where it’s quite tight, it’s interesting how you have to go around the roundabout but at the same time try to clip a little bit of the curb. You have nice pictures there; sometimes it looks as if the car is on top of the grass.”

“I think it’s been a learning curve after three years with Felipe (Nasr) when you get to learn and understand each other so well. Having Tristan (Nunez) come on board this year has been refreshing. It’s been two races where Tristan has allowed himself to adapt to the team. It’s always good to have Daytona and Sebring as the first two races of the season because you have so much track time and you have time to find all those details you need for a good relationship with your teammate. It’s not easy to just step into DPi with the car that just won the championship to perform at the highest level, but so far he's doing a fantastic job. I think we’re heading into a different type of race of the championship that is much shorter and I’m sure he’s going to do really well. We’ll continue to develop this relationship and hopefully bring some wins to the team and bring another championship.”

No Transcript As Yet For >>>

Filipe Albuquerque, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi


Answer Spooled Up In Video Above >>>

... notes from The EDJE


TAGS: IMSA, DPi, Cadillac, ACURA, No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura, No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, Westbrook, Derani, Albuquerque, The EDJE

Monday, March 21, 2022

House Of Penske Dominates Race Two And First Oval Of The 2022 Season


Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden nips teammate and NTT P1 Pole Award winner Scott McLaughlin at the Start/Finish Line by 0.0669 after 277 Laps on a last corner pass in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. Image Credit: Penske Entertainment - Chris Owens (2022)

House Of Penske Dominates Race Two And First Oval Of The 2022 Season

It's early in the season where we have had the season-opener on the street course in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida and this weekend's high-speed banked oval at Texas Motor Speedway near Ft, Worth, Texas.

To those who have been paying attention to the opening races in North American professional motorsports at the highest levels, Team Penske has been on quite a roll. If one were to add machinery and drivers who were formally directly associated with Team Penske, the start of the 2022 season for the "House Of Penske" is quite astounding.

To review, the first race of the IMSA DPi season - the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona - was won by an ACURA that was first introduced to this class of sportscar racing and sold to Meyer Shank Racing driven by two past driving members of Team Penske, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The first non-points paying race of the NASCAR Cup Series season - BUSCH Light Clash at the Coliseum - was won by Team Penske's Joey Logano. Further, the first points paying race of the 2022 season - the Daytona 500 - was won on the 85th birthday of his car owner, Roger Penske, by 23-year-old NASCAR Cup Series rookie Austin Cindric. Cindric beat Bubba Wallace to the finish line by .036 seconds in overtime to win Sunday’s 64th running of the Daytona 500.

The first race of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - was won by Team Penske second year driver, New Zealander Scott McLaughlin who won his first race for this INDYCAR team.

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden celebrates by pulling the triggers on the six shooter pistols, one in each hand, in victory lane after winning the NTT IndyCar Series XPEL 375 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Said Newgarden, of the win performed on the last corner before the Start/Finish Line, "I just went for it. He [teammate Scott McLaughlin] didn't do anything wrong, up on traffic, getting loose. I was a little stronger than him at the end for sure. It would be unwise, it actually shows his wisdom. It would have been very unwise for him to take a flyer and go high side without knowing what's going to happen. He won the first race, leading the championship. That would have been silly for him to do that decision. For me it was a risk but I think it was somewhat calculated. I saw people going up there toward the beginning and middle of the race. I took a calculated risk and it worked out."  Image Credit: Penske Entertainment - Chris Owens (2022)

The second race of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season - XPEL 375 - was expected to be very hotly contested, and this race did not disappoint. 

Much of the early buzz surrounded the fact that NASCAR standout veteran and second year driver for Chip Ganassi Racing Jimmie Johnson was finally going to be in his element. During his NASCAR career, Johnson won seven of his thirty-five starts in each 500 mile race performed at Texas Motor Speedway. This race was only going to be a contested length of 248 circuits/375 miles - only 3/4ths of the length of a NASCAR event.

J.R. Hildebrand had just signed on with A.J. Foyt Racing (AJFR) to be the oval race specialist in the car normally driven by Rookie driver, Colombian Tatiana Calderón. He competed in 11 straight INDY 500 races and was brought on to lend some valuable experience in coaching two rookie drivers (the other Rookie being Indy Lights Champion , Floridian Kyle Kirkwood) and assist with second year AJFR driver, Canadian Dalton Kellett, as well as run all of the ovals on the 2022 schedule.

A 27 car count field had fans excited about the prospect of this race. In recent years, having 19, 20 , 21, or 22 cars seemed about the norm for most INDYCAR competitors taking to the track - not being a race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the INDY 500. This has been growing through the refinements and maturity of the DW12 racing platform and aero-dynamics, with this racing season becoming the most robust car count racing seasons in years.

This excerpted and edited from Racer - 

PRUETT: IndyCar had empty stands at Texas - Here’s why it's worth the investment
By: Marshall Pruett - March 20, 2022 10:53pm ET

The best thing to come from Sunday’s IndyCar race is the fact that, after a fun race with more passing than we’ve seen in years, IndyCar has something to fight for at Texas Motor Speedway.

If the XPEL 375 turned out to be another single-lane stinker where we were stuck with 248 laps of follow-the-leader, I’d be singing the old country song, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over…they say that all good things must end” and rooting for IndyCar to uproot its act from Dallas/Fort Worth and find another oval worthy of its affection.

Thankfully, the constant action near the front, the rising and falling drivers everywhere else and the thriller of a finish — one teammate ripping the heart out of another — made a big and positive impression that wasn’t entirely expected. If only there were more people in the grandstands to have seen Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Ericsson, Jimmie Johnson, Santino Ferrucci and the rest of the 27 crazies put on a heck of a show.
The extra 150 pounds of downforce IndyCar added to its Texas aero specifications and the revised Firestone tires helped drivers to charge harder into and out of the corners, and while the second lane never materialized as anything other than an infrequent option, the competition was fierce. The series has some valuable takeaways to consider; Newgarden thought the extra session run late on Saturday to try and bring the second lane to life served a purpose.
A highly skilled IndyCar promoter who was in attendance thought the tiny crowd was likely a result of making a big mistake on setting the start time around 11:30 a.m. Most churches don’t let out before noon in the Bible Belt — and if it’s a good sermon it might be 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. before the doors are opened. IndyCar and TMS might have asked a lot of fans to choose between the Good Word and good racing. If that’s true, the grandstands provided the answer on who won that divine contest.
What I do know is: After the race IndyCar produced, Texas needs to stay on the schedule. But not if it looks like they forgot to open the gates to the damn event. 

As I’ve probably written 50 times in recent years, IndyCar cannot afford to go to venues where it looks small and unimportant, and that’s exactly what we had on Sunday.
IndyCar needs to intervene and bring its marketing and promotions capabilities to bear. Penske Entertainment is treating its co-promotion of the upcoming Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend at Iowa like it’s the most important race the world will ever know.

From all the sponsors it has signed to the big music acts Hy-Vee has brought in, it’s clear that when Penske Entertainment wants to go on the attack to make sure people buy tickets to an event it’s in charge of, it will work itself to the point of exhaustion. Unlike Iowa, IndyCar’s annual visit to TMS isn’t a track rental where its promotional efforts are directly tied to making a profit. But maybe it should be treated that way.
IndyCar drivers and teams risk too much over those 248 laps to play in front of an empty house. They deserve better and so do the faithful who circle this event on the calendar every year and pray for a good race.

Now that they’ve got one that’s worth saving, it’s time for IndyCar to stop pinning its hopes on TMS to deliver a massive crowd and do its part by attacking the problem and getting people in those seats themselves.

With the level of success the House Of Penske has had at the many racing series and tracks in North America this year, maybe it is time to flex some of their "other" muscles found at the House Of Penske's Penske Entertainment.

Team Penske driver, who's second in the Championship points, Will Power gives a congratulatory hug to Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden on his last turn pass and win in the XPEL 375. Newgarden moves up to P4 in the season points behind Chip Ganassi Racing driver and 2021 season Champion Alex Palou. Image Credit: Penske Entertainment - Chris Owens (2022)

Driver Season Championship Points Here >>>

In summation after looking at the post race 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Season driver points chart - impressions:

Pretty eye-opening given that some drivers are doing better than imagined.

Top of the order in points is House Of Penske with Scott McLaughlin @ P1 and Will Power @ P2 (trailing by only 28 points) - the "down-under" twins - both male and both qualify and win a lot. Josef Newgarden for his part @ P4 (32 points behind), notched his 21st career IndyCar victory. Team Penske earned its 600th win across all racing programs.

INDY 500 winner during his first year driving in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has always coveted being a season champion, but has come up short, started this season with an intent that this was going to be the championship breakout year. After only two races in a 17 race season, he finds himself stuck at the starting line. Image Credit: Penske Entertainment - Chris Owens (2022)

Colton Herta is highest points for Andretti Autosport at P7 - Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi has only beaten out two extreme Rookies ... so that makes him literally LAST in points.

Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth place in the XPEL 375 for his best IndyCar finish to date. Johnson is racing the full IndyCar schedule for the first time in 2022 after joining the circuit part-time last year. On the year, Jimmie is a surprising P11 ahead of Rahal at P12 and O'Ward at P13.
Pre-Race meeting between one-race fill-in driver Santino Ferrucci and second year driver for Chip Ganassi Racing Jimmie Johnson who was able to register more laps of racing at Texas Motor Speedway than any driver in the field due to his seven championship winning NASCAR Cup Series seasons over 18 full-time year career. Image Credit: Penske Entertainment - Chris Owens (2022)

Santino Ferrucci with a one-race fill-in for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Jack Harvey, who had an accident during the final practice and due to ACCELEROMETER PROTOCOL was not allowed to take to the track and race, finished the race as the biggest mover - Santino went from dead last @ P27 to P9 in the No. 45 RLL Honda. Due to this performance, Ferrucci has more points @ P20 in the season points stack rankings after two races than ... Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter, Kyle Kirkwood, Jack Harvey, and oval specialist J.R. Hildebrand (who should be the one with the most points of those mentioned before him - yet still has more points than Rossi).

Really a fun 11.7% completion snapshot of an early season before ACURA Grand Prix Of Long Beach set to run as Race 03 on April 8-10, 2022.

... notes from The EDJE


TAGS: Texas Motor Speedway, INDYCAR, House Of Penske, IMSA, NASCAR, Car Counts, XPEL 375, The EDJE

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

An Efficient, Safety Orientated, Performance Crossover

An Efficient, Safety Orientated, Performance Crossover 
By: James Groth - Review & Photography - Originally For - Partially Featured - Green Car Journal 
Location: Phoenix, AZ - The Electrified 2022 Lexus NX Hybrid Line Up 

A significant message Lexus is putting out for 2022 is…"over the next four years, half of the twenty new, or updated Lexus models, will be Electrified”.  NX Hybrids are expected to be 23% of those sales. 

For the majority of potential owners the winner I believe will be the 350h as its priced $500 below the gas version NX 350. The new pricing strategy will allow more customers to enjoy the benefits of a hybrid powertrain that provides superior mileage, combined EPA MPG 39 over the gas models MPG 25.  The marketing strategy of pricing 350h hybrid models below gas models I believe will be recognized as an industry milestone for converting customers to hybrid technology.

In recent years perhaps many potential buyers of SUV/Crossovers have passed on them due to their handling qualities in high winds and roll-over compared to sedans. Lexus has made the suspension of the 2022 NX a focal point by addressing how suspension affects ride quality, handling, quietness and overall driver confidence. 

Here is how they drove. For the vehicle size class the NX competes in this Crossover/SUV is nimble and very capable on twisty roads. Both the 350h and in particular the 450h+ instilled confidence to take sharp turns at speed without tire scrubbing or excessive lean and body roll. 

Ride quality was excellent with no harshness over bumps or rough road surfaces. The cabin remained quite at highway speeds providing a near home environment to enjoy the clarity of the audio system. 

Lexus' redesigned its suspension systems to include Adaptive Variable Suspension on the NX F Sport models. While the NX F Sport was not available at the media presentation I expect it will satisfy owners seeking sports car handling relative to NX’s size. AWD is offered on the 350h and is standard on the 450h+.  AWD is a contributor to the overall handling qualities of the NX and should be a strong consideration for those dealing with rain and snow. 

Power is sourced from four distinct powertrains:   

Gas Powered 

2.5L 4-cylinder 
2.4L  Turbocharged 4-cylinder.  
203 hp                                     275 hp
184 lb-ft torque                        317 lb-ft torque
8 speed auto                           8 speed auto
FWD or AWD                          AWD standard
Combined EPA MPG 28         Combined EPA MPG 25
0-60 mph 8.2 sec (FWD).       Full time AWD
8.6 sec (AWD)                        0-60 mph 6.6 sec

Hybrid Powered

2.5L 4-cylinder Hybrid.          2.5L 4-cylinder Plug-in Hybrid
239 total system hp               302 total hp
Electronic CVT                     Electronic CVT
AWD                                     AWD
Combined EPA MPG 39      Combined EPA MPG 84
0-6- mph 7.2 sec                  0-60 mph 6.0 sec 
EV range 37 miles estimate 

The 450h+ is designated by a power budge on the hood to accommodate the 450h+ power plant. Owners will be able to run with and out run some sporty vehicles with 0 to 60 mph performance of six seconds flat in the 450h+.  The 350h comes in at 7.2 seconds which should be competitive but less than the 350 gas that turns a 0-60 mph of 6.6 seconds. All three of these models have the power necessary for safely passing on two lane roads. 

The NX 350h has a fourth-generation hybrid drive with a two-motor transaxle/single motor rear differential and utilizes a lithium-ion battery. The 450h+ adds to those specs a 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery allowing for an estimated 37 miles of EV driving range. A full charge is achieved in 2.5 hours from a 240V outlet.  Many owners will appreciate that there is an optional 6.6kW on board charger.

If the latest connected services are a large part of your purchase decision, then NX has to be a top contender. The connected services are in five categories: Drive, Remote, Safety, Wi-Fi and Service. Each of these categories perform four to six unique functions. The connected services include Virtual Assistant. Navigation is cloud-based and Google powered.  The wireless charging is a simple welcome addition. The Lexus Interface has a 10-inch color Head-Up display standard with a 14” touchscreen optional. I found the Head-Up display useful and functional even with a blazing Arizona sun torching the windshield. 

The digital rear-view mirror is unique and another of the many very functional safety systems in this newly designed NX 2022 line up. The new safety systems are so numerous that space does not allow me to properly address them.  They include Remote Park and in particular Front Cross-Traffic Alert to prevent collisions when making left turns.  I did not have time to adapt to the Panoramic View Monitor display which was a distraction for me. 

Digital latches exterior and interior are a first and unique in design and use. Not to worry if the battery dies as you can still open the doors. A power folding rear seat is available. With the front seats set for a six foot driver the rear leg room may be a comprise for some people. Cargo capacity has increased by 14%. Standard wheels are 18” with 20” optional. To size up matters for your garage here are the critical NX numbers: overall length 183.5”, width 73.4”, height 65.3”.

Eight exterior colors are offered and three additional are exclusive to the F Sport range. There are four interior color offerings for 350h and 450h+ each can be selected in either Nuluxe or leather. The F Sport has two colors but they only come in Nuluxe, there is no leather offering. 

For audiophiles there is a1800 watt amp, with 12 channels powering through 17-speakers from premier audio manufacturer, Mark Levinson. This system made me feel as though I were in a theater, watching an action movie. The Mark Levinson systems clarity and reveal will out perform the majority of owners home system. The standard Lexus Premium Audio with 296 watts through 10-speakers has the sound quality to satisfy most owners. 

Conclusion: Lexus like all manufacturers designing a new or replacement vehicle study the competitive leaders and look to top or match them. This is what Lexus has done with the new NX by stepping up their game in every category.  They have succeed, in particular in the major categories of Price, Performance, Technology and Safety.  The highlight model in the line for me was the NX 450h+ which I preferred over the larger F Sport RX. Lexus is making the transition into hybrids easier with the ‘Affordability Factor’ as a key element.


NX 250 FWD $37,950  -  NX 250 AWD $39,505  -  NX 350 $41,550  -  NX 350h $41,050  -  NX 450h+ $55,560

P.S. The author also drove the IS 500 on mountain and freeway roads back to the AZ Biltmore. This is one hell of a hot rod with a sleeper 5.0 liter motor pushing out 472 hp through AWD and a taught suspension. The press notes did not show a 0-60 mph, just know this IS 500 accelerates in an instant  rush of power. I was glad I moved to the third lane as I saw the motorcycle cop follow and pull over the Dodge Challenger that passed me …     

... notes from The EDJE


TAGS: James Groth, Green Car Journal, NX 250, FWD, Lexus, AWD, NX 350, NX 350h, NX 450h+, IS 500, F Sport, The EDJE

Friday, March 11, 2022

A.J. Foyt Racing Invests In Building Team Dynamics With Journeyman J.R. Hildebrand

A.J. Foyt Racing (A.J. Foyt - left) has hired veteran J.R. Hildebrand (right) to race the ovals on the IndyCar schedule beginning next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Hildebrand drove the No. 1 ABC Supply Chevrolet in last year's Indianapolis 500. The livery was designed to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Foyt's first of four Indy 500 victories in 1961. Image Credit: AJFR (2021)

A.J. Foyt Racing Invests In Building Team Dynamics With Journeyman J.R. Hildebrand

AJ Foyt Racing (AJFR) has always had a challenge in being able to field a team that would be able to match the competitive output of teams that traditionally are better financed, had more driving talent fielded to draw from for set-up information in their paddock, as well as many other factors that enter into placing a multi-car team to gain wins during the course of a traditional 16-20 race season.

This year, with this announcement of adding the No. 11 Chevrolet Dallara driven by rookie Colombian driver Tatiana Calderón, who had very little recent oval racing challenges in her apprentice experiences, and the signing of 2021 Indy Lights Series Champion, Andretti Autosport driver American Kyle Kirkwood - driving the No. 14 Chevrolet Dallara, combined with sophomore full-season AJFR driver Canadian Dalton Kellett  - driving the No. 4 Chevrolet Dallara, it became clear that, as a team, this presented an opportunity to bring in a driver that could add both paddock experience and oval expertise to the team mix. 

Enter an American driver who was the 2009 Indy Lights Series Champion, has 66 career IndyCar starts, including 11 straight starts in the Indianapolis 500, with a near win of the INDY 500 in his first year, J. R. Hildebrand.

In the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener held at St. Petersburg, it was noticed that past AJFR driver, four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais was helping the team, with its three drivers, from the pitlane box. With the increase in car and driver counts in this post COVID-19 2022 season, it becomes an even greater necessity to have, in terms of experience and driving talent, an "All Hands On Deck" paradigm in order to exercise any advantage that can be gained. The American open-wheel series is packed with the deepest talent pool found in any pinnacle professional specification racing series in the world today. 

What follows is a ZOOM Call press interview process with the newest addition, and wrinkle, to the story that will become the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season - Mr. J. R. Hildebrand. 

J.R. Hildebrand - Friday, March 11, 2022

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Announced earlier today, big news from AJ Foyt Racing as J.R. Hildebrand returns to the team. It will be his 13th year of competition in the NTT INDYCAR Series as J.R. will compete on the ovals driving the No. 11 Rokit Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. Completing the season for the No. 11 is, of course, Tatiana Calderon will compete on the road and street courses for AJ Foyt Racing this year.

J.R.'s first race, no time like the present, comes up next Sunday in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, first of five ovals which of course will include the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. We counted up that. That will be his 12th Indianapolis 500. We'll look forward to that.

J.R. joins us this morning.

J.R., congratulations, back in the seat, and an expanded role for AJ Foyt Racing this year. How excited are you for this?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I'm excited to be back with this group. I think on paper maybe our May last year didn't look super special, but I just really enjoyed it. It was a great -- sometimes you're getting thrown into a new team and you don't really know how things are going to go, and as an extra car last year it felt sort of last minute. But really clicked with the guys and appreciated the work and kind of just the process of working through things. I felt like we as a group didn't feel like we rolled off the truck great necessarily, and within a couple of days it worked into the window, and I had the best race car, best feeling car I've had at the speedway in a long time last year, just within a couple of days.

I think that particularly like at this point in my career, that really -- that matters a lot. Like that registers to you when you can make that type of progress really quickly, and so I'm excited to be back with them and doing more racing.

For me that's exciting to be doing more of the races on the schedule. I really like the oval schedule that the series has right now. It's such a mixed bag of different even like oval racing disciplines. Texas is totally different, we don't go to any other mile-and-a-halfs now. It's a hard place. Iowa, a place that I've had a lot of success at in the past and always enjoyed, like that's been a track that for me I've just known what I needed there from the race car from the first time I rolled up, and more often than not have been able to find it with the teams.

Gateway, too, I think the awesome thing about INDYCAR racing generally right now, but particularly the oval racing, is that there's nowhere that's easy anymore. There's no flat-out, you're pinned for the entire race kind of places. You've really got to drive, you've got to work with the team to get the cars hooked up, and I'm looking forward to that challenge.

THE MODERATOR: This is your first expanded role in the series in several years. Do you approach this differently? How do you approach this differently than maybe just doing the one-off for the 500?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, definitely. I guess a couple of things.

One for sure is that I've been preparing alongside, or remotely, I guess, alongside all the full-time guys, same workout program and trainer as Josef Newgarden and a handful of the other, Jack Harvey and a bunch of those guys. With this potentially being what I was going to be doing this year for a few months now, I definitely kind of turned the wick up in the off-season and made sure just physically and mentally I'm going to be ready to go whenever it happens. Whether it happens, whenever it happens, being totally prepared for it from that perspective, which has been a nice kind of shift in the off-season.

Last few off-seasons I've kind of known that it's just going to be the 500, so you can -- not that I wouldn't be any less prepared for showing up at Indy, but you just kind of -- your timetable is different. The kind of amount of commitment from a scheduling perspective is totally different.

I've had my head in the game a little bit more, I feel like, over this off-season just on the training side, and in terms of working with the team even, it's just -- when you're going to do all the ovals or you're going to do multiple races, there's a lot of differences in terms of how you show up to run at Texas than you do on basically a two-day weekend, than you do to run at the Speedway.

The things that matter are much more kind of specific. You don't have time to run through a bunch of stuff. You're not developing a multi-day-long program to figure out how to get the car sorted, to get comfortable, all that kind of stuff. Even just pushing to get in the car to help shakedown Kyle Kirkwood's car last week was part of that. If I can get like five laps and do one in-and-out lap, that's really helpful showing up at Texas because I'm not going to get 50 reps over the course of practice like you do at Indy.

Just being a little bit more assertive, I think, in some of those situations, knowing that there's a chance to be doing more racing, and I'm feeling ready to rock and roll.

THE MODERATOR: Last season joining AJ Foyt Racing, I think you still finished a team-high 15th at the 500. What did you learn about the program that you can maybe build on for this five-race run here in 2022?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I think outside -- when you're kind of looking at the teams maybe outside of the obvious like Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, ECR is always fast at the speedway in particular, right, like you're kind of uncertain about how do we kind of extract that level of performance, like where is that going to come from, particularly at the Speedway.

I think kind of to an earlier point that I made, when I showed up there and we got going, we didn't have time to prep as long as maybe those teams do. The chassis that I was running last year was new in the shop in like April, like it wasn't an off-season's worth of development to rub on it and get it all nice and cozy.

I was really fortunate that over the course of my career I've kind of -- there's a handful of guys out and about that when my programs come together they'll jump on board to run the car, so I felt like I had a really good crew for sort of a one-off scenario that particularly in that instance came together sort of late.

I guess what I'm really -- what you're looking for as a driver is just in those kind of situations to feel like you could roll into race day with a puncher's chance at it. The way we got through those handful of days, the way that the whole engineering group worked together across four cars, it felt like at multiple times throughout the day, we were just operating as one -- as if there was just one car, as if it was all by committee.

There was no egos getting in the way on the driver or the engineering side, and we just got down to business, and like I said, were able to figure a lot of things out and get the cars to where it's like, man, if I'm -- if we can manage to work the strategy and get up into the top 10, no doubt I'm going to stay there, and I've probably got a shot at picking guys off even once we're there.

The race for us last year didn't really turn out that way, but I think that just gave me -- as soon as the race was over last year after going through qualifying, I felt like we had really squeezed everything there was. Given kind of where we were at and where the program was at, we did an awesome -- everybody did an awesome job executing there to be totally safe after our first run, and then the same on race day.

As soon as Memorial Day weekend was up, I was already working on just getting started out for this year because I felt like if we kind of get it rolling in the right direction, this is a group that can achieve at a high level. That definitely -- that's been my MO since last year, and I think same with the team, and now finally we're able to announce it officially.

A.J. Foyt shares an anecdote with J.R. Hildebrand last year in the Foyt garage at Indy. Image Credit: AJFR (2021)

Q. How beneficial is it to you going into Texas having been with the team in St. Pete kind of from the start of the season so you've been working with Kyle and Dalton and even Tatiana, as well, from the start of the year?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, it's good. I think that it's an easy group just to kind of slot into, and I've been at the shop since May last year. I talked to the team manager, Scott Harner, and Kyle Kirkwood's engineer, Mike Colliver, who was my engineer last year. He's sort of, I don't know, default technical director for the team this year. He and I are on the phone every couple weeks about all kinds of different stuff.

As much as it's not been as much in person interaction and maybe I've not been in the car, my engineer Daniele, we've been chatting all the time. It's an easy group to be in contact with, talk through things.

So I feel like we're sort of as prepared as we can be. There's no doubt that it's a little bit of a -- it's just going to be a grind at times this year. I mean, there's no question about that. Like I mentioned earlier, all the oval tracks, none of them are easy anymore, so it's kind of like if you do end up rolling off the truck and you're just not super competitive right away, you don't have a lot of time to figure that out at anywhere other than Indy, and now even at Indy you get a rain day or whatever before qualifying, and suddenly your back is against the wall a little bit.

But like I said, I think what's encouraging to me and what's exciting about doing this program this year with these guys is for where we're at, I think everybody is prepared maybe for it to be kind of a grind, and along with that, ready to do whatever we can to work together to dig our way up through the field, through weekends.

I think we're sort of anticipating rolling off the truck and having a little bit of work to do, and that's part of why we sign up to do this, why you do it year in and year out, and I just really like the attitude that everybody is bringing to it to dig our heels in and get with the program.

Q. From your own perspective, in terms of your confidence levels going into the month of May and Indy, having done the race in Texas, is that going to play into your hands in terms of like getting the car set up and stuff, given that you'll have already been on a superspeedway?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, it's hard to say how much the setups really translate these days, and frankly having not been at Texas over the last couple years, I don't really have a good feel for that. I feel like typically Indy is just kind of its own thing, and now Texas is kind of its own thing.

But there will definitely be some insights that you glean just about how the car interacts with different types of setup changes, and I think for me, I've never felt like I had any trouble just getting with it at the speedway. I've always been frankly kind of annoyed that I have to do refreshers and stuff every year, but that being said, just doing a bunch of in and out laps and having to do hot stops and working with the same core group of guys is going to be a little bit of a different mixture of crew and personnel than I've been used to working with.

Even if it's just -- we're not treating Texas like a warm-up for the 500, we're treating Texas like a race that we're there to go compete at. But it does function a little bit like that in a way that you get used to how each other talks over the radio. You get used to that communication with the strategist and the engineering group, and I think in some ways having to do that in a little bit more of a quick-fire sort of environment where at Texas you don't really have a lot of time, you've got to figure a lot of things out while you're sitting on the pit lane in one-hour practice sessions, that does accelerate that process a little bit before you show up at Indy.

Q. I wanted to ask you about working with Kyle basically because you were obviously leading the team at the 500 in terms of that development you were talking about, in terms of not quite rolling off the truck exactly as you wanted but you were able to develop through the month of May. How much are you kind of looking forward to giving that advice to Kyle and working with him, as someone who's a bit more experienced, and seeing how he works as a rookie coming through like you were once?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I mean, I think it was interesting actually being at the Texas test, at his rookie test, whatever, last week. I got in, shook the car down, and it was just kind of funny, I think my first -- it wasn't the first time that I had driven an INDYCAR on an oval but my first test with Panther Racing in 2011 season in my rookie season was at Texas, as well, and just kind of thinking, like, yeah, I didn't really have anybody around to let me know what was going on.

So it was kind of fun to have to sit there and think like what -- looking back at it now, what do I sort of -- what was I ready to hear from somebody, what was going to be like an overwhelming amount of information, trying to kind of distill down what are those three or four things that would have been nice to just have crystallized in my head, like yes, this is definitely something you should start doing and then kind of evolve on your own and get a feel for it. No, you should not tolerate the car being like this no matter what anybody says, those types of things.

It was kind of fun to work through that process a little bit with Kyle. He's obviously really good. There's no question about that. Once he got comfortable and got a feel for things, he was out there in traffic running just like anybody else would be.

But he's also fresh, and I think that there's a part of that when you've got somebody who's clearly a very good driver, who clearly has a good feel just kind of innately for the car, that actually can be quite an asset within a team, to just know that you're going to get a really clean, unbiased, unadulterated, unfiltered perspective on what the car is doing, and I think he'll be trustworthy right away. I don't expect we'll be on completely different pages.

He's come up very much the same way that I did, so his background coming into the INDYCAR Series is similar, albeit in a weird way -- he's done less oval racing. He's done a little bit more of it maybe in the Junior, Junior categories because I didn't do any of that in F2000 or whatever, but in Indy Lights championship when I raced Indy Lights, it was more stacked with ovals than it is now. We had run at Indy -- it was funny talking to him that they haven't even done the Freedom 100.

Even showing up at the speedway, it'll be a little bit more of a new thing for him than it maybe was for me at the time, but I'm looking forward to it. I am kind of ready to put my faith and trust in him to be a functional and valuable part of the process of figuring the car out and all of that stuff right away, even if it's just by knowing that if the car can do whatever you think it needs to do that he'll be able to do it or not, and that all by itself a lot of times is as much information as you need when you're going through the checklist.

But yeah, I'm definitely excited. Excited for him to be able to have the opportunity that he's got.

THE MODERATOR: J.R., when you're young like that, you've got to have a certain amount of maturity to be able to check your ego at the door, right, in a situation like that?


THE MODERATOR: Put yourself in his shoes or any young person's shoes; did you have that kind of mentality? Could you do that when you were that young?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I think so. I don't know, maybe I'm not the right person to ask.

You know, when I was a rookie, there was obviously -- running the National Guard car, that was sort of a big deal. I felt like it was, to be driving that car. The team had obviously had a lot of success, particularly at these types of tracks.

The team environment that I was working at, Dave Cripps was my engineer and we had a lot of really good people, and they were good at I think kind of reducing the pressure to a degree, keeping the mood kind of light, but that year outside of Indy where I had Buddy Rice as a teammate, I just didn't have a -- looking back, I didn't think about this a lot of the time. Like at the time I just thought, well, I'm here to go race and I'm the Indy Lights champ and I'm good, I'm going to go out and do this and I'll figure it out or whatever.

You know, you do -- in hindsight you do realize the value of having some veterans around who are willing to share a little bit of just kind of their perspective on stuff, and then as a young drivers you've got to just be able to kind of filter that for yourself, like all right, I'm going to also go out and just feel the car for myself and figure out what I think I need, and if some of that -- if that matches up right away, then right, then that's something that I can just log in the back of my mind, that this is -- I've kind of been told this is what you should be expecting and whatever, and now I can attach my own feeling to that, so that's something that I can kind of skip over having to figure out on my own now.

I think there's definitely some advice I got early in my career as I started to do more 500s and more races, I kind of realized maybe that wasn't -- maybe I shouldn't be quite so attached to that.

I think Kyle is in a place right now where he just seems to have like that natural knack for knowing what he's looking for and knowing what he's got when he's got it.

So I guess my feeling with him is, whether it's Sebastien at St. Pete working with him, Seb can be a little long-winded and full of information, which is awesome, but sometimes maybe a little bit hard to figure out how much of this do I need to know right now, how much do I just need to focus on what I'm doing. I'm probably a little bit the same way.

But I think Kyle is more than capable of kind of working through that. I'm hopeful that I can be helpful to him over the course of this year and particularly these first couple of races to help him feel comfy getting up to speed.

Q. I wanted to ask a bit more about Iowa and how much testing or how much iRacing you get to do on places that obviously you don't get anything like as much practice time as you will do at Indy. Is there anything you can do to prepare for somewhere as unique as Iowa Speedway or Gateway? Will you be testing there?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I think we've got a test day schedule for one of the two later on. I want to say we're planning on testing Iowa off the top of my head, but those things can always change.

Yeah, I guess fortunately those are both places like I've had good cars and know what that feels like, so I think that that -- for me at least, like my confidence level showing up at those places, I kind of feel like I already have a good sense of the team's perspective on setups and all that kind of stuff. I don't expect to be like way outside the window at those places when we get there later in the year.

Then on top of that, Iowa is a place in particular that I've gone through that process a couple of times with totally different versions of the INDYCAR. Even my rookie year with the old car. We were not awesome rolling off the truck, and at that point it wasn't because I really knew what I was looking for, it was just I had kind of a hunch that I wanted the car to do something a little different, and Crippsy was awesome about just, boom, a couple of changes all at once, threw a different package out on the track and the thing ripped.

When you have those experiences, especially like early in your career where you go from being a little uncertain to then really feeling like, oh, man, okay, this thing is on rails now, that's really sticky in your mind, like okay, yeah, that was how that all changed, at first it felt like this and then it felt like that and we hauled ass.

I'm sort of cautiously optimistic with those events later in the year. I like the short track racing, short ovals. Those are both places that are very driver and engineering dependent. It doesn't really matter how much development you've done or how much prep goes into the car at those kinds of tracks. The handling of the car and being aligned with that in terms of what you're doing in the seat are the things that matter the most.

But to your point, I mean, same is true for everybody else, and there's a lot of teams and drivers that have been competitive at those tracks over the years. We've got to throw everything at it we can, and as a driver, you're kind of looking for all the ways that are possible.

If we can get in the simulator, if we can get -- like you said, even just doing some iRacing just to kind of be maybe that little bit more ready to go and having a couple little things, all right, the way that you bend into the corner, some of that kind of stuff, just refreshed for when you show up, it's definitely pulling out all the stops.

Q. Does it feel strange for you to have done -- you're like a seasoned veteran now. You've done this for -- well, you made your debut in 2010, right? You got fastest lap on your debut, which is kind of cool. But obviously you've already done 65 races, so you're a seasoned veteran but you haven't gone the same experience as someone that's been solidly in the series for all that time. Does it feel weird to have young guys kind of tap you looking for experience and the sage old man advice?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I'm going to have to shave and start getting a little bit of like a younger look going here soon.

You know, yes and no. I mean, I guess I feel like I've learned -- even when I've been out of the car, I feel like I've learned a lot about -- and that's just -- it's interesting to me, right. Like it's always something, even from the outside, I've always taken an interest kind of in the engineering side of things, so you're always just kind of wondering about and curious about it, what are guys doing and how does Dixon manage to do that, or how does Will Power just suddenly go to the top of the sheets. Like some of those things, even when it's watching on TV or whatever, but certainly when you're at the track -- I worked with AJ Foyt Racing last year a little bit kind of in a driver-coach capacity.

I've just always found what's going on on track interesting, and part of that's for me to kind of figure out, okay, if I get this opportunity, if I'm jumping back in the car, how do I manage to evolve my thinking even though I've not just been doing the reps.

You know, I think particularly when it comes to oval racing, it makes you kind of -- I've done the same number of Indy 500s at least over my career as anybody else has because I've done them all consecutively since my rookie year.

You know, frankly, it's sort of a little bit flattering when you have guys that are coming up -- even though I know that my results have not all been stellar there, and I know that that's for all kinds of different reasons, but when either as team personnel or when I put my 500 deals together, I get like a whole bunch of really good guys that want to come and work on that program, that were planning on just hanging out on the sidelines otherwise. Like they don't need to work; they don't need to do it.

Those kinds of things, the team having the confidence in you to plug you in to just random short situations, and then even working with guys like Kyle, who kind of right away just assume that I know what I'm talking about and am ready to provide some good advice. You know, at this point in my career, I'll take that. I'm happy to do that and happy to be on my side of things like honest about what I feel that I really strongly do have a valuable opinion about and what maybe I don't and what guys should just go kind of figure out on their own.

THE MODERATOR: You know you've been around a while when the younger guys come up to you and say, hey, I remember watching you as a kid.

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, right? I know. It's like I see the dates, like the years that a lot of these guys were born, and it's just like, man, I am getting old; what the hell?

Q. Obviously the continuity is important, but you talked about being part of this program kind of there or thereabouts since May. Kirkwood talked a little bit to me a few weeks ago about how he's seen a lot of positivity over the off-season. I'm kind of curious when you look at this program at AJ Foyt, what kind of changes have you seen since you've been there that really seem to make it feel like this program has elevated itself for this season?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I mean, I guess to me, the thing that I like about the squad is just there's kind of like a grittiness to the attitude that the team has, that it's not -- there's not like an expectation internally for this year that we are going to be operating in every way like Penske or Ganassi or something.

I think that there's like a bit of an honesty about, all right, we've got to kind of like make up for the fact that maybe we don't have those kinds of budgets and are not able to tap into these kinds of resources. We're not doing a ton of days in the wind tunnel and all that kind of stuff. But the team has done an awesome job even with a little bit of certainty in terms of how things are going to end up working out for the year, without having quite the same access or whatever, without having the same in-house resources as some of the bigger teams, they've done a really awesome job at just figuring out ways to account for that basically and figuring out -- I don't want to say it's like scrappy, but it's just I'd say intelligent ways of accounting for some of those differences, and just having sort of a head-down mentality about working through stuff and being able to do that development in their own way and showing up and being ready to rock and roll.

Kyle has been super impressed with the car on road and street circuits so far through the testing, and I think that's a testament not only to his ability to be able to just get in and get there, but at some point the car -- when you're racing against Scott Dixon and Alex Palou and Josef Newgarden and Rossi and Herta and whatever, you've got to -- the car has to be there, also, to be able to compete with those guys on those teams.

Kyle I think still knows that he's got room to grow and improve and get better just as a driver. He's got some headroom still from that perspective.

I think that to me just points to the fact that a lot of the things that the team is doing, the way that they have started to find ways of developing the car through the off-season are working and that they've got like a really high degree of efficiency from that perspective, and like I said, I think one of the things that really stood out to me about this group is just the overall attitude kind of from the top down about what we're here to do. Like this is a team that I think understands kind of where we're at and has -- their expectations are not like out of control from that perspective, but we're here to show up and win.

I think like at the 500 last year, we just got to work. Like there wasn't anything that -- there was no screwing around. There was no, like, being downtrodden about where we were at. It was like, this is just a process, and if we keep executing together and we keep talking and we keep doing the things you know you have to do as a group to get competitive, whether you're at the top of the sheets or the bottom or whatever, we just went out and did it. There was in a weird way like an ease to it like I've not experienced at every team that I've been to, certainly kind of like jumping into a new group of people.

I think that's some of what Kyle has experienced, and it feels like a team that's on its way up. They're getting things figured out in a way that are going to scale over the course of the year, over the course of the next couple of years, and that's a fun thing to be a part of.

Q. You've run a couple of fun throwback liveries at the Indy 500 the last few years. I look at that Rokit all-black at Texas last week, and it brings me back to some Foyt liveries from yesteryear. Do you have something planned for this month of May?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I don't know. I've been lucky that I don't always have a lot to do with the liveries, and somehow I just end up, like last year was sort of an awesome surprise to be in that car.

So I don't know what the plan is for Indy this year. Yeah, there's definitely some of the old Copenhagen black-and-orange cars and that kind of stuff. I think we'll have ABC back on board it sounds like this year in a pretty big way, so we'll see what the team has up their sleeve.

THE MODERATOR: It's one thing to have those liveries but it's another thing to appreciate it. You're a student of the game so you can appreciate it. That's important.

Q. You've mentioned "team" quite a lot. This is the first time, Dave mentioned earlier, since 2017 you've kind of got a team for a season. I know you're not full-time but this car is full-time. How does it feel to be part of the team aspect again, knowing when you leave Indy that you still have more races coming, this car is going to be on track every race. Is it feeling different being part of the team persona again per se?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, it's good. I like having teammates. I didn't for a long time. I mean, I've had -- I've kind of been in these -- when I was doing the one-offs with ECR for a couple of years, it was Josef and Ed and myself, it was three of us, but for the most part the max I've ever had around was one other driver, and for a lot of my career I've just been kind of flying solo, or at least the beginning of my career that's definitely how it was.

So I think on the driver side even it's awesome to have some different people, working with different engineers. You do for sure get a lot more information flowing. You get a lot more different thoughts, and as long as that's not confusing to everybody, which the way that drivers are sometimes it can be, I guess, but it's just a good vibe.

I think that with this particular group, not only the guys on the car but the guys in the engineering staff, it's a lot of people that -- it's one benefit, I guess, to have been around for a while. There's a lot of people that I've worked with at some point in my career already, so there's a lot of benefits to that, and definitely something I'm looking forward to.

Q. It seems like ovals seem to benefit veterans. What have you learned now in 12 years of doing this? Last year as an example the Fast Nine had five of the nine drivers in their 40s and you've got 46-year-old Helio winning. Do you feel there's an advantage that as the series gets younger but the veterans still stand on ovals? Is there any kind of an advantage over these younger guys on these ovals this year?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: You know, I think it's just for the oval racing, there's definitely a degree of just understanding the patience required, and there are a lot of little things that you manage to do over time that in my opinion just having a lot of reps in a lot of different -- slightly different situations, you do kind of build up just that bank of knowledge that matters a lot. It's why you see guys like Helio and Scott and Tony. They're always kind of there.

Even if they're not there on race day, they're contributing a lot to their team and their programs to make sure that they're kind of heading the right direction.

I think that there's no question that experience matters, I guess, and so from that perspective, just the more you've clicked off -- I've been fortunate, there's only been -- I think I've only been in one 500 that I didn't complete all the laps, so that's a lot of miles that are all -- there's a little learning experience in every one of them.


Q. It's kind of been touched on in this Zoom call a couple of times but not in just this way. You've had an interesting arc in your career and you show up each year with another, say, modified version of the INDYCAR chassis and aerodynamics and so on. You're entering into a year now with multiple races. What gives you the confidence about this year over, say, some of the previous year's experiences with this chassis?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I think that one of the things to me is this year -- I'd say since 2018 with the universal kit and then with the aeroscreen in 2020, that the cars have just gotten, and not in a bad way, the cars have just gotten harder to drive. They've got less downforce. The tracks have lost grip over time and haven't had repaves, any of the ovals that we're going to in particular.

I think that alone just kind of makes me feel like, all right, like I'm definitely confident in my own sort of ability to show up at these places and both understand pretty quickly, and now that I've raced a bunch of different versions of this car, kind of like you said, have a pretty good feel for what I think we can extract out of it and what we can actually get it to do from a setup perspective.

Then once if we can get it in that window, to go kind of maximize what I can get out of it as a driver. I feel like one of the things that I've kind of prided myself on road courses, street courses, oval racing, whatever, is just when it comes down to it, being willing to commit at that sort of maximum level. If there's a corner that we think is possible to do flat-out, like I will definitely be the guy that at least gives it a try.

That's sort of served me well, I guess, over my career and definitely matters at this point because there's a lot more oval corners that are more on that borderline than there used to be, and so I'm looking forward to it.

I'm ready for the sort of challenge of it and am excited about that, and I think with this group, I have confidence that we can figure it out.

Q. Being part of a group and then the arc of your experience and then knowing the different chassis, like you said, when to go for it in those questionable corners, it's that kind of advice that can really lend to the experience to the whole team. Is that what you see as your role, as well?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I mean, I guess I feel like I'm here to help steer the direction of -- almost a little bit like being an extra engineer or something in those discussions at least, just kind of trying to -- if it's relevant or it's necessary, trying to kind of help bridge the gap between what are we all feeling with the car and what's really possible to get out of it, and so trying to kind of filter that information a little bit, because that is something that I feel like I walk into these places with a pretty good feel for, like what are we going to have to tolerate in terms of the car not being perfect, like what's just a car thing, like we're not going to get over that hump, so we need to focus our energy somewhere else versus, okay, this is actually a problem that we need to deal with like right now and we need to fix it.

I think that's a little bit of just the experience that I've had on a lot of different oval tracks in a lot of different scenarios, like you said, with different chassis, with different kind of configurations over the years, being able to help add some context to that discussion.

Then ultimately if I'm the one that's going to have to go out and do all the qualification simulation work or whatever to figure that out, I'm certainly not disappointed or scared of being in that situation.

I think at the end of the day, it's probably -- I guess from the team's perspective it's probably nice to have somebody who's willing to go off and do that, and if that ends up being me, that's totally fine. I'll take that on.

Q. Now that you have these races set up on the ovals, where is the mindset at right now because there's some drivers that get those part-time opportunities hoping they turn into a full-time deal in the future. Where is your mindset on that? Are you more or less focused on what's ahead or hoping that what's ahead can lead to more greater things in the long haul?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: That's a good question. For sure right now my head is just totally strictly focused on showing up to Texas and being as ready for that as we can be and going out and performing. For me that's certainly on behalf of the team, to take it to -- to be able to take advantage of this opportunity and them choosing me to be the guy for this role.

Honestly, like it's as much just for myself to go out there and continue to work on my craft. You have to kind of go out with the intention to execute in every little facet of what you do, whether it's in-and-out laps in practice, I mean, every little thing.

I think for me it's one of the things that I've learned over the course of my career, that you can kind of attach yourself a little bit too much to results or even just like goals from a performance perspective, and at the end of the day what really keeps you going and keeps you wanting to do this, and for me it's been -- I've had like a revived feeling of that energy over the last few years because I've been able to change my mindset a little bit, is just as a driver you do really know when you just get everything out of it, even in those little small micro experiences over the course of a weekend, and then you start to know if I just start stacking these little things up, kind of regardless of where I end up finishing because sometimes there's aspects of that that are not in your control, whether because strategy doesn't work or we didn't have the car that you needed to do this or that or whatever, that you can still come out the other side of those weekends feeling like you accomplished something, and then kind of know you have a more fundamental sense of where you can get better.

That's what I'm after in this is can we go to Texas, learn something, come out the other side of it feeling like we're better for it, better for having been there that weekend, and hopefully feeling as a group that we executed when we had the chance when it mattered. Wherever we end up is where we end up, and at the end of the season however that manifests itself in terms of doing more or not or whatever, that to me is like a totally secondary concern.

Q. Going back to the time in 2012, it was the first time you drove a Chevy engine car. It was the year with your best results and at Texas was the fifth position, and it was the year when you got the best finish overall in the standings at the 11th position. 10 years later, quite an anniversary, this time I know it's different circumstances. Now that you've got the opportunity again, have you thought about the chance of running another remarkable season again like in 2012?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I guess I haven't really thought about it in quite that context. I think about that race at Texas a lot, though, because that was like one of those Texas races where five or six cars finished on the lead lap, I think. Like it was super hard.

We were desperately trying to make sure that it wasn't going to be a pack race, and it turned into a thousand percent the opposite of a pack race.

I remember being crossed up and sideways coming off of Turn 4 a bunch of laps in a row and thinking that surely we were just going to be awful in that event and then kind of discovering that we were going to run in the top 5 at the end of it.

I think in some ways that's probably one of the more similar experiences just in terms of like, okay, this is going to be a long race that you've got to just be there at the end. There's going to be points where you've got to just kind of buckle down and be ready for everything to feel terrible, and your tolerance for that is going to be a big part of what decides where you end up at the end of the race.

I mean, I guess I come into every -- I try to learn a little bit from everything that I do, right, and watching a lot of what other guys are doing. I've been watching the races from Texas last year just kind of trying to pick out some of those little things, like Pato made his way to the front, Graham Rahal was really good, what do their cars look like, what can they do that the other cars can't do, trying to reverse engineer a little bit of how do I get there, also, so that I can do those things.

You know, I guess I think that this is in a more general sense, this is for a lot of reasons a good opportunity just to work with a good group of guys, and hopefully, yeah, like you said, hopefully have another one of those years where things just kind of click at the right times and at the right places, and then I can go out and do my job.

Like I feel way more confident in my ability to go out and get the most out of my part of things now than I probably ever did when I was younger. When I was younger it was a lot more -- there was a lot more uncertainty in terms of what that even means at certain places. You're showing up to these tracks in that type of scenario with a car that's like that with the regs being that way. You don't know what to expect, you're just kind of out there figuring it out on the fly.

You know, I feel very prepared and just ready to go.

Q. I saw when you were talking about the five ovals, I wasn't sure exactly whether this was a full-year commitment for you with Foyt that would have you at the other races as like an advisor, test driver, whatever you want to say, so could you clarify that perhaps?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: You mean for the road course races? Like to be around -- so I'll be driving all the ovals, and then yeah, it's a discussion that we've had about being around for a little bit more of what's going on.

The team actually has like a really great group of kind of former drivers and people that have been around, so I guess I would say I think that's something that the team is, I think, having a lot of discussion around, just the value of having other drivers that have like a reasonable opinion, I guess, about what's happening.

But no solid commitments on my end for that one way or the other.

Q. When the car switches to the oval, obviously it's either a different car or a totally different setup. Does the team switch? Is there staffing changes?


Q. Everybody stays with that car?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, yeah, everybody will just cross over.

Q. I noticed the world "old" came up. I'm not exactly the youngest guy on the planet myself. You're the seasoned journeyman. That to me sounds a lot sweeter.

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I'll take that.

Q. Keep in mind that the guy that won the Indy 500 last year was 12 years your senior.

J.R. HILDEBRAND: As long as Helio and Scott and Tony are still doing it, I'm not feeling old at all compared to those guys.

Q. You talked a lot about the team and about how do you grow up in all this time. One thing I have in mind is as you think about a mentor driver, is it a change in your mind to decide going out to race the car and now to try to build up the development of your teammates that you are trying to help?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, it's a little bit different, but it's -- I guess it's something that I really welcome. It's I think kind of a healthy attitude to have within a team, just to be working alongside and a little bit even on behalf of the rest of the squad.

I think when you're younger earlier in your career, when you've got teammates you feel like it's very competitive against your teammates, and in certain circumstances that's also healthy and warranted and that kind of elevates the competition level of the team.

I think particularly when it comes to oval racing, though, there's so much -- like for me you're just running your own race, and so there's a lot of value in being able to be object the same page with the rest of your teammates, to create that sort of evolution of the car over the course of the weekend and be as on the same page and open and honest and transparent about where you're at and where you think it needs to go relative to what everybody else does because there's, at least in my experience, there's a little bit more of a direct correlation between making the car better for one person and making the car better for everybody.

I think particularly with Kyle, he and I thus far have seen sort of eye to eye, and he seems -- he's very confident but not arrogant at all. I'm just looking forward to working with him. I haven't had that many opportunities to work with teammates, like I've said before, over the course of my career, and certainly not in a capacity like this. It's just something that I think I'm looking forward to, and I think we'll -- I see the benefit for all of us if we can manage to get on the same page like that.

Q. Just a silly question: I want to know if in your podcast there will be a chance for Marcus to raid your race this time.

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I'll have to have him fill in for my rating over the course of the year. I think that would be fair.

Q. After a few years of not racing at all of these tracks, which oval are you most looking forward to?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: That's a great question. I think Iowa. Iowa is a place that -- I'm looking forward to all of them, but Iowa is definitely a place, especially since it's a double-header, that I feel like we've got a really good chance of showing up there, even if it's just over the course of a couple of days. By the time we get to the second race, having things pretty figured out. It's a track that I've liked in the past. It's really fast for a short oval. Hopefully we get a couple of different lanes working so that the racing is kind of particularly fun there when that ends up being the case.

Yeah, just a fun place to go racing.

Q. Are you planning on driving your car Rosy, whatever you call it, to the 500 again?

J.R. HILDEBRAND: I'm not sure. It'll depend a little bit on the weather this year. That was quite the haul last year. But I'll definitely drive something out to Indy from here in Colorado, so we'll have to wait and see.

THE MODERATOR: J.R., pace yourself. We've got a ways to go before we get to Iowa.

We'll wrap things up here. Congratulations, J.R. We'll see you in Texas next week.

J.R. HILDEBRAND: Thank you.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

... notes from The EDJE 


TAGS:A.J, Foyt Racing, Chevrolet, J.R. Hildebrand, No. 11 ROKIT, No. 14 ROKIT, No. 4 K-LINE, ovals, TMS, IMS, Iowa Speedway, World Wide Technology Raceway, The EDJE