Now that J.R. Hildebrand’s first shot at IZOD Indycar fame has come and gone should the young American get another shot? The reality of the situation is that if Hildebrand is going to get another shot in open wheel it’s going to come at the cost of someone else, and that’s a big ask for someone whose been more defined by mistakes than successes.
He was within two turns of winning his rookie Indy 500, but put it in the wall on the last lap in dramatic fashion. He skidded to a second place finish in one of the most dramatic Indy 500 finishes, but sadly that has become the highlight of his entire career.
Since his rookie year Hildebrand has hung around 10th place or so and has just made some tragic mistakes. I want to like Hildebrand but he literally drove over Will Power this year at St. Petersburg, under caution, while he was a lap down. Then he was fired by Panther Racing after a single car wreck early in the Indianapolis 500. Somewhere along the line Hildebrand became best known for mistakes.
I can’t say I disagree with John Barnes for firing J.R., but it’s not like the two veteran drivers he’s put in his car have done any better.
I want Hildebrand to succeed for a lot of reasons, he’s American and he doesn’t come from a racing family. Hildebrand has had a father with a famous name to hire him and put him through the ranks. He’s shown flashes of speed but now his future is in doubt.
(2/2) … I am very confident that I will land on my feet and be back on track competing with the big boys soon enough.
— JR Hildebrand (@JRHildebrand) May 30, 2013
Without saying it he pretty much admitted he needs to rebuild his reputation. He told Autosport that he’s got a lot of work to do
I would like to have the opportunity to run with a team that I can go out and prove to people that I can run at street courses. That was one of the big questions from being with Panther Racing, because the team obviously had mixed results on those sorts of tracks a lot of the time.” — J.R. Hildebrand
J.R. went on to say that it was more about finding money at this point than about rehabilitating his reputation, which sadly he’s probably right about. The problem is there probably won’t be a lot of chances for Hildebrand to rehab his reputation. Baring injuries there aren’t any funded opens and since so many of the field contributes funding to their rides Hildebrand will have to out-fundraise someone else to get a spot in the field.
I want to see Hildebrand get a second chance, but after running over Will Power I’m much less passionate about it. I don’t think he’s deserving of being out of the sport, nor do I think he should be dropped to sports cars for the rest of his career. Hildebrand needs an opportunity, but with Oriol Servia and Ryan Briscoe free agents I just don’t know it’s going to come from.