It’s confirmed: J.R. Hildebrand will race in this year’s Indianapolis 500.
And with it, bumping will return to the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Hildebrand’s entry marks 34 drivers/cars that have announced they’ll attempt to qualify for the 102nd Running of the Indy 500. One of those will ultimately fail to qualify and will go home, unable to make the 33-car field.
This is the first year there will be bumping to fill the field since 2015, when former Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier failed to make the race when he was bumped out.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced in a Thursday afternoon teleconference that Hildebrand will drive a second entry for the team in the May 27th race.
“At Dreyer & Reinbold we’ve had 37 cars start the Indy 500 over the past close to 20 years now,” team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. “So we’re looking forward to adding to that number, really going out there and trying to do whatever we can to win the race.”
Hildebrand will pilot the No. 66 Chevrolet, with Salesforce being the primary sponsor on the car. Hildebrand will race alongside teammate Sage Karam, who will be in the No. 24 for Dreyer & Reinbold for the third consecutive year.
It will be somewhat of a return home for Hildebrand, who began his IndyCar career in 2010 with DRR.
“My first call to the big leagues was from Dennis,” Hildebrand said. “We’ve obviously been in the same Chevy camp over the last few years out at Indy.
“We were always really impressed with the speed, just performance of the guys at Dreyer. When I started working on getting this year figured out, it was an obvious phone call to make from my side. I’m excited we were able to get it all put together.”
It’s the first time the DRR team has had a second entry in the Indy 500 since 2011.
“We went out and over the off-season made the decision to ramp up our efforts to get two additional cars, so we have three total in our stable that we are able to run, so a backup car along with our 24 car primary and 66 car primary,” Reinbold said. “There’s a lot of work.
“Expanding from one car to two cars to run, you’re talking about additional pit equipment, you’re talking about additional wheel guns, radios, all kinds of things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of right off the top of your head.
“So there’s a lot to it. We’ve been working pretty much all off-season on acquiring equipment and putting things together. Both of our cars have been painted at this stage, so I’m pretty excited about that. That always kind of indicates you’re getting ready to start the road to the Speedway.”
Hildebrand will be making his eighth appearance in the Indy 500. He almost won it in his rookie season in 2011, but crashed while in the lead coming out of Turn 4.
Still, he managed to eek out enough momentum from the crash to slide his mangled ride across the finish line in second place.
The 30-year-old native of Sausalito, California, started on Row 2 of last year’s race, but finished 16th for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Dreyer & Reinbold, which is based in Indianapolis, plans on using this year’s 500 as a starting off point to build a full-time entry in the IndyCar Series in 2019.