INDIANAPOLIS — JR Hildebrand has a new team and an old-fashioned look for this year’s Indianapolis 500.
On Thursday, A.J. Foyt Racing announced it had hired the California native to drive the No. 1 ABC Supply Chevrolet as the team’s fourth driver in IndyCar’s biggest race. And the candy apple red nose, trimmed with black stripes over a white body may look awfully familiar to longtime race fans.
It’s the same paint scheme Foyt used to claim the first of his record-tying four 500 victories in 1961.
“At my age, I don’t get too excited anymore, but I’m thrilled to see this car painted like my ’61 car,” the 86-year-old team owner said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
The No. 1 actually belongs to the defending series champion, New Zealand’s Scott Dixon who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing.
But the team owner is lending the number to Foyt this May, making he throwback car possible.
Hildebrand’s crew will honor the victory, too, by wearing uniforms modeled after the 1961 crew, headed by George Bignotti who helped steer a record seven cars reach victory lane.
For the 33-year-old Hildebrand, it’s also a big deal.
“The fact that I’ll be running a livery honoring A.J.’s first win 60 years ago is just an incredible thing to be a part of,” he said. “I’ve tried to bring a little history into at least some element of my 500 gigs over the last few years — in ’18 we ran a 66 that was designed based on the car Jim Clark ran his lone NASCAR start with, in ’19 we ran Dan Gurney’s 48, and last year we designed the 67 on our car from the numbers that were on Joe Leonard and Graham Hill’s 1968 turbine cars — but this definitely takes it to a whole new level.”
He will attempt to make an 11th consecutive 500 start alongside four-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais, Dalton Kellett and Charlie Kimball — his new teammates. Hildebrand drove for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing the last three years.
His best finish came as a rookie in 2011 when he lost the lead after crashing on the final turn of the race. His damaged car skidded across the yard of bricks in second place, behind the late Dan Wheldon.
Hildebrand posted three more top-10 finishes — in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — but hasn’t been higher than 11th since then. He qualified sixth with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2017 and finished 16th last year after starting from the No. 32 spot on the 33-car starting grid
“Being able to sign a quality driver like JR will add another source of valuable feedback to our team which is especially important given the talent-packed Indy 500 entry list this year,” said Mike Jost, chief operating officer of the company.
Qualifying for the May 30 race is May 22-23.