By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
This year’s Indianapolis 500 will mark 60 years since A.J. Foyt etched his face onto the Borg-Warner Trophy for the first time.
To honor “Super Tex’s” maiden Indy 500 triumph, his race team announced Thursday its fourth driver for next month’s race. J.R. Hildebrand will be piloting the redesigned 1961 throwback livery with ABC Supply sponsoring the effort.
Perhaps the one thing that stood out was the fact the fourth entry will have the No. 1 plate in their Chevrolet powered Indy car. The year that Foyt won at Indianapolis, he carried the illustrious number.
During the Zoom call, A.J. confirmed he got the blessing from Chip Ganassi to use the number. That’s because their driver Scott Dixon won last year’s NTT IndyCar Series title and have first dibs on carrying the prestigious number.
Aside from promotional content in 2019, Dixon hasn’t used the No. 1 during competition since 2004.
“We just got it together and everything fell in place. ABC Supply called and wanted to sponsor our car,” said A.J. “We had to get No. 1 from Chip, so it was nice for them to lend it. We had already reserved No. 61 in case we had to have a different number.
“All the wins were great, but the first one was special that you can never replace,” A.J. added. “First time you do something and you’re proud of it all your life, what else can you ask for? It was a dream come true.”
Team President Larry Foyt said he called Ganassi to get the approval on running the car number. He had to get it done relatively quick because Ganassi had to travel to Saudi Arabia for the inaugural Extreme E event.
“It wasn’t bad. I called Chip and said that I needed a favor. He was great, but he was heading off to Saudi Arabia,” said Larry. “I chatted with Mike Hull and he just talked to PNC Bank, and got everything approved. It was good to go. They were really gracious and excite about what were doing.”
Hildebrand will become the first non-defending champion carrying the number since Michael Andretti’s Indy 500 effort 15 years ago.
ABC Supply COO Mike Jost shared his comments about being a part of the 105th Indy 500.
“ABC Supply is excited for the opportunity to support AJ Foyt Racing by sponsoring the No. 1 car for the Indy 500,” said Jost. “A.J. is a living legend and part of the ABC family, and our 15,000 associates are honored to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of his first of four Indy 500 wins as a driver.”
Overall, the runner-up finisher from 2011 has multiple reasons to be excited about his 11th quest for the biggest race.
“Getting the chance to drive for A.J. and Larry is something I’m looking forward to no matter what, but with ABC honoring the 60th anniversary of A.J.’s first 500 win that makes it extra special,” said Hildebrand.
“I’ll be back in a Chevy which I’ve spent almost my entire IndyCar career driving, gain the benefit of three teammates, and get the chance to reunite, in a way, with an engineer I’ve had success with before in Justin Taylor, who’s race-engineering Seb (Bourdais) this year,” Hildebrand continued.
“We all know that the 500 is only getting more competitive so we’ll all have to bring our best to the table, but that, to me, is what makes this race so worthwhile in the first place. I can’t wait to get rolling.”
After spending the past three Indy 500s driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, it’ll be a different vibe for the 33-year-old because he’ll have three teammates. Those being full-time drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett along with fellow Indy 500 entrant Charlie Kimball.
Larry said the main reason he hired Hildebrand to run at Indy due to his experience. Especially, when the team have typically entered three cars at the speedway.
“Growing to four cars, we wanted to make sure it’s a guy that had a lot of experience here,” Larry commented. “Could actually contribute and be a helpful part to the team. It made a lot of sense. We’ve been talking to him the past couple of years and I’m glad it’s happening.”
The 105th Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge is scheduled to commence Sunday, May 30. Live coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBC.