JR Hildebrand returning for Indy 500 in fourth car for AJ Foyt Racing

AJ Foyt Hildebrand Indy
Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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INDIANAPOLIS — JR Hildebrand has a new team and an old-fashioned look for this year’s Indy 500 with AJ Foyt Racing.

On Thursday, Foyt announced the team 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 team release.

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“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 the 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.

It’s also a big deal for Hildebrand, 33.

“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.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.