INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - Oct. 24, 2012

Story posted - Oct 24 2012 5:10 PM

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - Oct. 24, 2012
Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Hildebrand ready to cheer on Giants in World Series
2. Holmatro Safety Team makes house call
3. Indy car drivers voted into Road Racing Drivers Club

1. Hildebrand ready to cheer on Giants in World Series: When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, IZOD IndyCar Series JR Hildebrand donned his orange and black Giants gear and cheered the team on to victory along with his dog, Indie.

When closer Brian Wilson recorded the final out to capture the team's first World Series title since 1954, Hildebrand vividly recalls his solo celebration.

"I'm pretty sure the dog was freaking out because there was nobody there that I could high-five," Hildebrand said. "I eventually ran out into College Avenue screaming about how the Giants won the World Series. I'm sure my neighbors all still think I'm crazy."

As the Giants return to the Fall Classic tonight against the Detroit Tigers, Hildebrand, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area plans on cheering his team to its second world title in three seasons. He answered a few questions about his love of the team and baseball, and expectations for the upcoming series:

Q. I don't think people really understand how big of a Giants fan that you really are. While a lot of people claim to be fans of various sports team, you literally follow every single Giants game throughout the season. How did that start?

JR HILDEBRAND: "A big part of that stems from the fact baseball is a sport I played for a long time. Back when the Giants played at Candlestick Park, you had to be real Giants fan to show up at night games because it was freezing cold and you were up in the stands with blankets.

My parents were both born and raised in San Francisco and lived there their whole lives, and I was born there and all of those things combined with the fact that since I was 5 until my junior year in high school I played baseball very seriously. Those are all huge contributing factors.

There was a long period of time where the Giants weren't a consistent playoff team. Obviously we went through the whole Barry Bonds era where they were a powerful offensive team, but now they're a team that's reaching the playoffs by really just being a good solid all-around baseball team.

As my coaches would have called it, they play good small ball; they hit-and-run, they bunt, their fundamentals are really good, they play great defense and they've got great pitching. Because it's not one guy that we're waiting to get to the plate and there's a 1-in-4 chance that if he makes contact he's going to hit the ball over the fence by 200 feet. Because it's not like that, as a Giants fan, you pay attention to every player, and the young guys coming up through the farm system. They're a fun team to watch and they've shown they have a lot of character through both playoff series, they've been cornered and have their backs against the wall and don't seem to care and just play ball."

Q. The Giants have had their backs against the wall to make it this far. What's it been like to sit through the series against the Reds and the Cardinals?

JR HILDEBRAND: "The Cincinnati series was a bigger deal at the time. That was a series that, as Giants fans, we expected to go in there and make a series out of it at least. I thought it was going to be over in four games because we win it 3-1, but then (the Giants) lose two games at home and you're thinking, 'Man, let's just skate through this with a win at least and not get swept.' But then they go to Game 3 and just eek one out, and then from there the bats wake and they get it up and they get the momentum rolling.

Baseball isn't a sport you think of as momentum-based, you don't have (Baltimore Ravens LB) Ray Lewis getting them hyped-up every game to go out and kick everyone's (butt), because baseball's not like that usually.

The 2010 Giants … they were super hot coming into the playoffs, and the guys everybody liked; Brian Wilson, Tim Lincecum, they were already kicking butt. So it wasn't until Game 4 against the Reds that I sat there and went, 'OK, there's a few guys here that can do this.' All of a sudden there are guys that have become leaders just based on the way they've played in these games. That's pretty cool, because watching the games at intently as I have over the last couple (of) months, that's something that just happened.

And that's a big part of how they've been able to keep it together. I saw this morning that they were the first team to ever win six straight elimination games. That's a pretty serious effort."

Q. You had a chance (in 2011) to go to AT&T Park, hang out on the field before a game, meet manager Bruce Bochy, and players Brandon Belt and Javier Lopez, among others. As a fan watching now, does that change your perspective or your connection to the team at all?

JR HILDEBRAND: "Yeah, it does. It was cool to meet a guy like Brandon Belt who is one of the younger guys and is playing awesome. This is his first season in the starting lineup on a regular basis. Being able to meet Bochy was really cool. Within sports, or business, there are some people you meet and within 10 second you realize why they're as good as they are at what they do. He's so mellow and laid-back and unemotional, he's got a quirky sense of humor, but that's part of what makes him cool. It's neat to have had the personal experience of getting to meet those guys and to just get a little taste of what those guys are actually like. So that's definitely cool when you watch and even those three guys when we got down on the field, they weren't guys you thought were game-changers, but this year they have been."

Q. The last World Series, you had regrets about not making it to one of the games. This year, is it a situation where there is no way you're not going to attend one of the games during the series?

JR HILDEBRAND: "I will be going to a game in Detroit. There's no doubt in my mind that's going to happen. The last time around I was flying back and forth from the west coast for some racing stuff, and there was one day where I had a shot at flying through Texas on my way back from Indianapolis to catch one of the games. Not only was I going to have to pay a bunch of money to go to the game, but my flights were going to get all screwed up. So I skipped it. I regretted that massively and that's definitely stuck in the back of my mind since then. It won't happen this time around."

What is your prediction for the series?

JR HILDEBRAND: "The Tigers are super, super good. My opinion of the Giants through and through is if their pitchers can perform at the level they're capable of performing on a regular basis they're going to have a chance to win. Being a starting pitcher in baseball has to be one of the toughest jobs in sports; you make one wrong decision to the wrong guy all of a sudden you're down three runs. It's definitely a high-pressure situation in the playoffs. Screwing up as a starting pitcher - I think - has little to do with succumbing to the pressure as much as it's just a hard deal to get every pitch right. But if their starting pitching can keep it together and can keep the Tigers within a run for the first six or seven innings, they're going to have a shot. And, if the series goes to six or seven games, then the depth of the Giants pitching staff will be a point in their favor."

2. Holmatro Safety Team makes house call: Four members of the Holmatro Safety Team recently returned from Argentina, where they reviewed INDYCAR's track safety protocols and procedures with the Rally Argentino safety team.

"Their team is diverse in that their courses change. They'll go from flat terrain, no roadways to dirt to road to mud and they actually race on hillsides, too, in mountains. They can have a crash on a city street to one on a hillside," said Tim Baughman, who joined INDYCAR track safety operations manager Mike Yates, Matt Stewart and Denise Titus on the trip.

"They have to have a pretty diverse response team that includes rope rescue, extrication and a strong medical component because of some remote locations they race. They had us look at all aspects of what they do and we showed them what we do -- our assignments, equipment, our trucks and how we break down our first response of taking care of the driver and then prepare the track."

The groups trained together, demonstrating extraction procedures from the rally car and using Holmatro tools to cut a car for extraction.

"It was similar to what you see in the fire department because the doors of the race car open like a passenger vehicle," said Baughman, who is also the Indianapolis Fire Department's Chief of Planning and Transition. "Also, Matt and I have extensive background in cutting open a car so we showed them some techniques."

The road rally series, which has 11 events between February and December, is promoted by the company owned by Jorge Perez, whose brother, Pablo, was injured in an Indy Lights crash in 2007. Titus had visited the Perez family in Argentina during his recovery, which precipitated the invitation.

The Holmatro Safety Team consists of two dozen safety personnel, with a minimum of 16 attending each INDYCAR event - two trauma physicians, three paramedics and nine firefighters/EMTs and two nurses. Team members have an average of 20 years' experience. The team works in conjunction with and coordinates the safety personnel staffing at each venue.

"It was a good crossover; we learned from each other. It was quite an honor that they were asking for our approval and they asked us to return," Baughman said.

3. Indy car drivers voted into Road Racing Drivers Club: Current IZOD IndyCar Series drivers James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Takuma Sato, Oriol Servia and Josef Newgarden are among the 30 race car drivers who have been voted into the Road Racing Drivers Club as regular members for 2012.

Also joining the list are Indianapolis 500 winners Eddie Cheever Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya, Indy car drivers Adrian Fernandez, Max Papis, Michel Jourdain Jr., Brian Till and Michael Shank.

The group has won a collective 66 season championships and more than 700 races. Voting was held among all current RRDC members. Also, former Honda Performance Development president Robert Clarke was selected as an associate member.

"This is truly a stellar group of talented race car drivers and contributors to the sport," said RRDC president Bobby Rahal. "We are honored that each of them has enthusiastically accepted membership in the RRDC. We look forward to working with them as the RRDC continues to pursue its goals of lending its expertise to up-and-coming drivers through a variety of programs."

The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety, and has evolved to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels.

The Club's membership includes leading industry professionals, race officials and motorsports journalists, in addition to prominent racing names.

 
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