Hildebrand gets 2 races in Conway's place
Reigning Indy Lights champion J.R. Hildebrand will be the latest driver to fill in for Mike Conway at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Graham Rahal, Paul Tracy and Tomas Scheckter have all taken turns filling in for Conway. Hildebrand will be next, climbing into the No. 24 car for races at Ohio and California.
After that, Conway should get his ride back. He may even be ready to drive a third DRR car at Infineon Raceway, though it's probably a longshot with the pounding his damaged left leg would take driving on a road course.
``He seemed very upbeat when I spoke to him,'' Dreyer & Reinbold co-owner Dennis Reinbold said Thursday. ``He spoke about how it's coming along, how there's not much pain in the foot and he's optimistic.''
Conway suffered multiple leg fractures and a compression back fracture in a horrific crash at the Indianapolis 500 when he ran up the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay and went hurtling through the air into the catch fence. The British driver was expected to miss three months after the May 31 crash, but appears to be ahead of schedule and has started to swim to rebuild strength.
Reinbold said Conway is out of the back brace and expected to get the cast off his leg next week. The team will have a third car ready to go with Justin Wilson and Hildebrand at Infineon if Conway is healthy enough to drive. If not, he's expected to be back for the final four races, all on ovals.
In the meantime, Hildebrand will finally get his shot at an IndyCar ride, even if it is only short term.
The 22-year-old driver from Sausalito, Calif., is a product of IndyCar's Road to Indy, a stepladder program designed to give up-and-coming drivers a path to the IndyCar Series, though he was driving long before it was established last year.
Hildebrand has won numerous series championships, including last year's Indy Lights title after winning four races, but was unable to secure an IndyCar ride in 2010 and has been driving in the American Le Mans Series. He will make his IndyCar debut at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Aug. 8 and will race again at his hometown track Infineon Raceway on Aug. 22.
``It's just an inherently difficult step to take from any kind of Triple-A, junior formula series to the big leagues, in some sense, as it is in any sport,'' Hildebrand said. ``In car racing, obviously, the financial hurdle to get over becomes a much bigger hurdle once you get at this level.''
Dreyer & Reinbold has yet to determine who will drive Conway's car at the July 25 Edmonton race.