For the last week, JR Hildebrand dealt publicly with "What if?" Privately, the circumstances surrounding the 23-year-old Californian's runner-up finish in the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 were resolved soon after the checkered flag.
Hildebrand dutifully recounted the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 during a break while testing the Milwaukee Mile June 3 for the upcoming IZOD IndyCar Series race.
"I've always been sort of a math/science type of guy. I'd like to think I have a pretty logical perspective on what goes on, and I think that allows all of us to look back at what happened and take it for what it is," said the Panther Racing driver. "There's a lot of fairly complex things that went into what ended up transpiring on the last couple of corners. No matter how it ended up, it wasn't about me. It was about the team putting me in this incredible situation, especially how it worked out at the end of the race."
Hildebrand's highest IZOD IndyCar Series finish – and second consecutive top 10 – propelled him to eighth in the championship, and he leads James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing by 33 points in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
The next undertaking is three consecutive weekends on distinctly different ovals – the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway (June 11), the flat Milwaukee Mile (June 19) and the 0.875-mile, variably banked Iowa Speedway (25). The former and latter will be under the lights. There also is a different format at Texas with the Firestone Twin 275s – two 114-lap races on the same evening with an hour intermission.
Hildebrand joined a dozen other IZOD IndyCar Series competitors on the Milwaukee Mile, recording 99 laps in preparation for the Milwaukee 225 on June 19. During his Firestone Indy Lights championship season in 2009, Hildebrand started and finished second to pole sitter Mario Romancini at Milwaukee.
"For everybody at Panther Racing, it was refreshing to focus on something different, and Milwaukee and Indy are so different it was nice to be in a new situation and start moving forward," Hildebrand said. "Indianapolis was a big sigh of relief for all of us because now we know we can do this right and be competitive. And we're definitely taking that with us as we move forward.
"It's been a couple years since I've run here in anything, but we rolled out and were up to speed right away. We got settled in pretty quick, and from there it was just all of us trying to make progress on the day. There were a lot of things I was picking up on as we worked through the day. It's a different place, but having run two days in Phoenix in December prepared me for running at Milwaukee even though those two tracks are very different."