He’s one of the coolest people to set foot (or cycle) in the Brickyard every single year.
JR Hildebrand is one of the safest pair of hands in a race car at the Indy 500 these days on the grid, and while his 2023 plans are still to be determined, his race weekend essentials bag is always packed and ready to go.
He’s an IndyCar podium finisher, an Indy Lights champion, key protagonist in that 2011 Indy 500 ending and now, you get to see inside his bag for all his favourite gear.
This is a regular feature at Podium Life, so if there’s a competitor or motorsport personality you’d like us to interview, let us know!
What do you pack for a race weekend?
My core essentials for a race weekend outside of driving gear are a dark pair of shades, noise-canceling headphones, and a good pair of high tops.
I’ve been wearing the IVI Sepulveda for a few years now even after I stopped working with them as a sponsor because I love the straight-across top of the frame (although I’ve had my eye on some Jacques Marie Mages – need to come up with a good excuse).
I actually just picked up a pair of Sony WH1000XM5s which are pretty amazing, and I usually have some off-white Vans Sk8-His with Superfeet insoles. It’s a lot of walking around at the track.
I’ve also used a version of the same pack for a few years – the Incase EO travel backpack. Room for a big-screen laptop or tablet, expandable, great for carrying-on. And I always have a lacrosse ball in my bag to loosen up tight muscles in a pinch.
What can’t you live without?
Water and sleep. Literally and figuratively. You’ll rarely find me without a 1L Nalgene bottle whether at the track or not – I use it to track my water intake everyday – and I’ll supplement with Nuun electrolyte tabs when I feel the need.
I use a product called Tailwind as a fuel/hydration mix when actually exercising, whether on the bike or in the race car.
For sleep I’ve always got Mack’s earplugs and MedTerra CBD gummies for a little assist when it comes to winding down, and I use a couple apps for different reasons here – Atmosphere for ambient sound and Headspace for different meditations.
Do you bring anything because of superstition?
I don’t carry anything around out of superstition. Just the necessities.
Is there anything you do specifically for the 500?
My routine is pretty similar for Indy as it would be for any other race, but I definitely put an emphasis on not burning too much energy pre-race.
It can be pretty chaotic, so scheduling plenty of time to do the things that need to be done and not be rushed is an extra priority there.
One short ristretto shot with a pretty even mix of fats, proteins, and carbs for breakfast, which is nice to be able to organise for yourself before you ever have to go anywhere.
Indy’s different from other races for me because you’re staying at the track and are there for much longer, so I definitely have more of a complete setup for meals, coffee, etc.
Plus I always road-trip so it’s easier to have my own gear with me. The Nespresso machine and our little REI stainless Doppio to-go tumblers are a staple, I bring an array of body-work tools – my favorite is the Thrival Meat Grinder because it really helps free up the psoas (muscles) which is especially helpful after long practice days at the Speedway.
I’ll usually also bring a bike. The last couple of years I’ve had my Shimano-equipped Yeti SB130LR. And I always bring the 2Pac minky that my wife got for me in downtown LA way before we were married…it’s just super cozy!
Having lived in Indy previously there are several spots I try to hit while there but I’ll give a special shout-out to Goose the Market for a sandwich that I desperately wish I could find at home in Boulder.