For the first time in 13 IndyCar seasons, J.R. Hildebrand will not be a part of the field of 33 taking the green flag for the Indy 500.
On Sunday, May 29, 2011, J.R Hildebrand led the Centennial Indy 500 heading into turn four on lap 200 of 200. How crazy would it have sounded at the time to suggest that he would have zero IndyCar wins to his name a dozen years later?
In just his seventh career IndyCar start and first Indy 500, Hildebrand was poised to become the race’s first rookie winner since Helio Castroneves won it in 2001. But he hit the wall in the final corner of the final lap and was overtaken by the late Dan Wheldon.
Hildebrand has been at regular at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the years, having competed in the race every year since, despite having only run a full IndyCar schedule twice from 2012 to 2022.
Following his memorable runner-up (and ironically career-best) finish in 2011, he secured three more top 10 finishes in the Indy 500, including a sixth place effort in a race he also led late back in 2016. A late penalty in 2017 knocked him out of contention after he was running in the lead pack all day.
Since his most recent full IndyCar season with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2017, Hildebrand has competed for two teams in the Indy 500.
In 2018, he drove from 27th to 11th place for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which signed him again to compete in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2019 and 2020. He added finishes of 20th and 16th.
Then in 2021, he signed with A.J. Foyt Enterprises and finished in 15th place. He returned to the team as a part-time driver for the oval races and made his first non-Indy 500 start since 2017 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished in 14th. He finished in 12th in the Indy 500 but did not compete in any other races, as the team’s third entry was ultimately dropped due to sponsorship issues.
Hildebrand is one of only nine drivers to have competed in every single Indy 500 from 2011 to 2022. But only eight of those nine are set to attempt to compete in the 107th running of the race this May, as Hildebrand does not have a ride.
Whether or not we’ve seen the last of him at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Speedway, Indiana oval remains to be seen.
But if the 2022 edition of the race was his last, it will serve as a brutal reminder of just how cruel the speedway can be — a driver mere yards away from etching his name into Indy 500 lore, denied a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy after more than a decade of trying.
This year’s Indy 500 is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 28 and is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.