JR Hildebrand will make his return to the Indianapolis 500 at the end of next month, driving once again for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The American will drive the team’s #48 Chevrolet, paying homage to Dan Gurney.
Today’s news means that Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will have an unchanged line-up for this year’s Indianapolis 500, with Hildebrand joining the previously re-signed Sage Karam. Both drivers raced for the team in the 2018 Indianapolis 500.
“I’m excited to get back for Year two with these guys,” said Hildebrand after today’s announcement. “We learned a lot last year about working together as a group and I’m really confident that we’re going to come back this year stronger than we were.”
Last year, Hildebrand raced the #66 Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold. This year, however, #66 has been taken by McLaren Racing for Fernando Alonso‘s entry. This meant that Hildebrand and the team had to choose another number, with JR ultimately choosing #48. Today, Hildebrand explained that he was paying tribute to one of his “racing heroes” Dan Gurney, who raced with #48 during many of his appearances in the Indy 500; including when he finished in second place in the race in 1968 and 1969.
“Dan brought such a special and unique story to racing. That’s what it’s about,” JR said today. “It’s not that we’re comparing our era to his, or me as a driver to him, but we are honouring this legacy that he’s left. That’s obviously a lot of what I am passionate about in the sport.”
“With #66 being gone, we first thought we’ll just do #99 or something like that. I’d been chatting with Jimmie Johnson [driver of the #48 in NASCAR] a little bit and I started thinking, ‘Maybe we should switch this up.’ Instead of going with something that was close to our other number, we thought we could kind of play on this theme of historically relevant, cool numbers. We picked the 48, which was obviously Dan Gurney’s number when he ran Indy. I’m excited about that.”
“I’m thrilled to have Salesforce back on our race car, and also honouring the great Dan Gurney with the No. 48 this year. Dan was one of my racing heroes.”
After today’s announcement, Dennis Reinbold, team co-owner of Dennis & Reinbold Racing, stated that he was happy to be fielding both Hildebrand and Karam again this year. He would also go on to talk about how he, like Hildebrand, had idolised Dan Gurney when he was younger.
“Last year, we expanded to two cars with JR and Sage and the combination worked very well,” Reinbold said. “JR’s experience at Indy brings our team a lot of background to develop the cars quickly in practice and prepare for qualifying.
“With JR and Sage, we have two very talented young drivers who can compete for the win on May 26. Plus, running the No. 48 in honour of Dan Gurney is exciting for me and our team. Dan was one of my heroes as a kid and it will be great to have the No. 48 back at IMS.”
In last year’s Indianapolis 500, Dennis & Reinbold Racing would qualify in twenty-fourth place with Karam and in twenty-seventh place with Hildebrand. Karam would sadly fail to finish after crashing his #24 Chevrolet, whilst Hildebrand would work his way through the order to an impressive finish of eleventh place. This time around, both drivers will be hoping to be up inside the top ten, if not in contention for the victory.
Hildebrand will be one of many NTT IndyCar Series drivers in action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Wednesday in an open test.
After that, the next on-track action in preparation for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 will be the first day of practice on Tuesday, May 14. The two days of qualifying for the race will take place from Saturday, May 18 to Sunday, May 19. The race itself, the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, will take place on Sunday, May 26.