LONG BEACH, Calif – We may be gearing up for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) this weekend, but it’s never too early to start talking about the Indianapolis 500. On Thursday, another driver confirmation took place, as JR Hildebrand and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing confirmed the 34th entry for this year’s race.
Hildebrand, 30, will pilot the No. 66 Chevrolet for DRR in the Verizon IndyCar Series race, joining Sage Karam with the team.
But, most are noticing the “66” as his car number and wondering why that number? For Hildebrand, he has good reason why, one that involves the number being close to his heart as far as racing goes.
“Yeah, Dennis was kind enough to let me take a stab at number choice,” said Hildebrand on why he chose that number. “I’ve run 66 a handful of times throughout my career. But even when I was a little kid racing go-karts, it was the first number that I kind of became enamored with from going to vintage races, seeing the Jim Hall’s Chaparral. From me, it’s the origination of why I’ve always liked the number.
“Then obviously get to know over the years a little bit more about Indy history, Mark Donohue was obviously from a distance not sort of overlapping, but just reading The Unfair Advantage when I was a kid was really impactful for me. To know that was his Indy 500 winning number in 1972 has cemented 66 in my mind as one of the most awesome numbers you can run out there.”
Hildebrand, says to pay attention to his car and the design when that’s formally unveiled, because it’s going to be something special too.
“We’ll have a little fun with it later on,” the new driver to DRR said. “But even the design choice for the number that we’re going to run on the car this year has a little bit of a backstory to it. I decided it would be almost like sacrilege to use the Route 66 or the iconic Penske Donohue 66, but we found a new one to run which has a fun story.”
This will be Hildebrand’s eighth ‘500 start, all consecutively. His best finish was second in his rookie year in 2011. We all know how that story ends. But, in three of his last four years, he came away with a top 10 effort, all in one-off Month of May only entries.