Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have today confirmed that American JR Hildebrand will drive their second and final car in the 2018 Indianapolis 500 in May. Hildebrand will join fellow countryman Sage Karam with the team for the 500, which will once again be their one and only race this year in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
JR, who has raced forty-nine times in IndyCar over the last eight years, including seven starts in the Indianapolis 500, will return to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; the team that gave him his debut in the championship back in 2010. Both he and the team will be hoping that he can better his career-best finish of second place, which infamously came in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 when he had been leading the race until the very last corner, where he crashed whilst lapping a backmarker; thus gifting the win the late Dan Wheldon whilst JR crawled across the line as the runner-up.
“[I] Really am pumped to do it this year with DRR,” said Hildebrand on Twitter, “[I] Got my first call-up to the big leagues from Dennis, got a bunch of great guys that I’ve worked with before, and their whip’s been pretty damn fast with SK [Sage Karam] behind the wheel last few years. Ready to get after it!”
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing scaled back to only compete in the Indianapolis 500 for 2014. Prior to that, the team had competed in the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time from 2000 until 2013. In their last four years of racing only at Indianapolis, the team has fielded just one car a year. During those four years, the team has taken a best finish of ninth place, which came from Sage Karam in the 2014 race.
The team announced earlier this year that their intentions were to run not one, but two cars, in this year’s 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. At the end of February, the team announced their first driver, Sage Karem, who had previously driven for the team in three of the last four Indianapolis 500 races.
When the team announced that they were running two cars, they had to confirm the identity of either driver. However, team owner Dennis Reinbold stated at the time that both the drivers that he had lined up were capable of winning the race, saying: “- they’re both excellent drivers, especially at Indy.”
“Our whole outlook entering Indy 500 is that if I’m going to commit money, equipment and cars, I want drivers who give me the very best chance of winning Indy,” Reinbold said back in January, “That’s the only goal at Indy. And we’ve been competitive several times in the past, so I know we can do this.”
The confirmation of Hildebrand driving the #66 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet means that the grid for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 officially stands at thirty-four entries, meaning that we will definitely see the return of cars being bumped from the field in qualifying.
The first practice session for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 will begin on May 15, followed by two days of qualifying on May 19-20. The race itself takes place on May 27. Meanwhile, the Verizon IndyCar Series will head to California this weekend for the 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.