IndyCar: J.R. Hildebrand set for 2021 Indy 500 return

J.R. Hildebrand is set to compete for A.J. Foyt Enterprises in the 105th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, marking his 11th start in the crown jewel IndyCar event.

2011 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and runner-up J.R. Hildebrand is still seeking redemption for his heartbreak in turn four from 10 years ago, and he is set to get another chance in 2021.

Hildebrand is set to make his 11th start in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month, and he is set to drive for A.J. Foyt Enterprises behind the wheel of the #1 Chevrolet.

This move gives A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team four drivers for this race. Dalton Kellett is the full-time driver of the #4 Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais is the full-time driver of the #14 Chevrolet and Charlie Kimball is set to reunite with the team in the #11 Chevrolet for the month of May.

The number 1 is typically reserved for the defending series champion, but with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon opting to continue using his regular number 9, this gave Hildebrand and A.J Foyt Enterprises the opportunity to honor Foyt’s first of a record four wins in the race.

Foyt drove his Offenhauser-powered #1 car to victory lane in 1961, leading 71 of the 200 laps in the race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) oval in Speedway, Indiana. He went on to win the race in 1964, 1967 and 1977 as well. Only two other drivers, Al Unser and Rick Mears, have won the race four times.

With long-time A.J. Foyt Enterprises sponsor ABC Supply Co. as the primary sponsor, the #1 Chevrolet which Hildebrand is slated to drive in the event has been designed to replicate Foyt’s #1 car from six decades ago.

Here is what Hildebrand had to say about this opportunity, according to a team release.

“This is definitely a drive to be excited about, and for multiple reasons. Getting the chance to drive for A.J. and Larry is something I’m looking forward to no matter what, but with ABC honoring the 60th anniversary of A.J.’s first 500 win that makes it extra special.

“I’ll be back in a Chevy which I’ve spent almost my entire IndyCar career driving, gain the benefit of three teammates, and get the chance to reunite, in a way, with an engineer I’ve had success with before in Justin Taylor, who’s race-engineering Seb this year. We all know that the 500 is only getting more competitive so we’ll all have to bring our best to the table, but that, to me, is what makes this race so worthwhile in the first place. I can’t wait to get rolling.”

Here is what Mike Jost, COO of ABC Supply, had to say.

“ABC Supply is excited for the opportunity to support AJ Foyt Racing by sponsoring the No. 1 car for the Indy 500. A.J. is a living legend and part of the ABC family, and our 15,000 associates are honored to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of his first of four Indy 500 wins as a driver.”

Here is what team president Larry Foyt had to add.

“This livery is more than just a throwback for us. It is special to our team and family, and its imagery is something I have grown up seeing my whole life. It is wonderful that our longtime friends and partner ABC Supply will be the primary sponsor on this tribute to one of my Dad’s great accomplishments. Being able to sign a quality driver like J.R. will add another source of valuable feedback to our team which is especially important given the talent-packed Indy 500 entry list this year.”

Finally, here is what “Super Tex” himself had to add.

“At my age, I don’t get too excited anymore but I’m thrilled to see this car painted like my ’61 car. That win was so special because it was my dream just to be good enough to make the race. To win it three years later well I was thrilled to death about it. They were all sweet victories but to win that first one after where I came from, it was unbelievable.

“Having ABC Supply sponsor this car is fantastic. They were awful good to us as our main sponsor for 15 years and they came back for the 500 last year when things were pretty tough. Well, that just shows what type of company they are. We’ve been great friends and we’ll remain that way.”

The 33-year-old Sausalito, California native has finished in the top 10 in the Indy 500 three times since his near-win back in 2011. He finished in 10th place in 2014, eighth in 2015 and sixth in 2016. Last season, he finished in 16th after starting in 32nd.

He has driven for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in each of the last three Indy 500 races, but Dreyer & Reinbold Racing are expected to enter just one car in the race this May for Sage Karam, although that has yet to be confirmed.

The confirmation of Hildebrand behind the wheel of the #1 Chevrolet means that there are 33 confirmed entries with 32 confirmed drivers for this race thus far. Any more entries would ensure bumping for the first time since 2019, and there are likely to be multiple additional entries confirmed in the near future.

NBC is set to broadcast the 105th running of the Indy 500 live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 30.