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Dreyer & Reinbold Racing confirm J.R. Hildebrand to drive second entry for Indy 500

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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.”

MORE: Dreyer & Reinbold to announced second Indy 500 entry/driver Thursday

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.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).