J.R. Hildebrand will get another shot at winning the Indianapolis 500 through Ed Carpenter Racing, which is expanding its team to three cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Hildebrand was leading on the final lap of the Indy 500 in 2011 when he wrecked in the final turn. His last full season in IndyCar was in 2012, but Carpenter has hired the Californian for the Indy 500 the last three years.
Carpenter will actually field a car for Hildebrand in both the 100th running of the Indy 500 and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course. The car will be sponsored by Preferred Freezer Services for the third consecutive year.
"Especially going into this year's 100th running of the 500, you know everyone is bringing their absolute best to the fight," Hildebrand said. "After the experience I've had over the last two years with this team, I know that we're going to be bringing a race-winning effort ourselves."
Hildebrand finished eighth in the Indy 500 last year for Carpenter, and 10th in 2014. This year will be his sixth Indy 500.
The deal with Preferred Freezer Services also includes primary sponsorship of Josef Newgarden's car at the Grand Prix of Boston and Honda Indy Toronto. PFS will also be an associate sponsor for Newgarden in all remaining races.
Meanwhile, AJ Foyt Racing has committed to running a third entry in the Indianapolis 500 with sponsor Alfe Heat Treating. Foyt has hired Alex Tagliani to drive the No. 35 Honda in both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 500.
The number 35 was chosen to honor Foyt's record 35 straight starts in the Indianapolis 500 from 1958 through 1992. The car's colors will be a nod to the No. 14 Copenhagen cars that Foyt drove in the latter part of his career.
"We chose the number 35 because it is the number of consecutive starts A.J. had at the Brickyard as well as being A.J.'s birth year, a lucky number," said Kurt Westman, CEO of Alfe Heat Treating.
This year will be the third straight year that Alfe Heat Treating has focused on a design that has meaning beyond the traditional sponsor-centric livery. The sponsor in 2014 featured a "Foyt Poppy Red" paint scheme in honor of Foyt's record-setting Indy 500 victory in 1977.
Last year, Dan Gurney's No. 48 All American Eagle was selected as the design and Tagliani drove the car to a 17th-place finish.
Kyle Larson skipped Wednesday night's World of Outlaws race at Placerville Speedway in California because he's still sore from a hard crash at Auto Club Speedway.
Larson hit head-on into a SAFER barrier at high speed in the Sprint Cup Series race Sunday. He said after the accident his left rear tire was cut and it probably ripped the brake line.
"I went to push the pedal and it went straight to the floor board. I couldn't slow down," he said. "It was definitely a hard hit there, probably one of the harder ones of my career."
Larson was scheduled to race in the WoO event — Brad Sweet's Placerville Showdown — but said Wednesday morning he will only be a spectator. Sweet is the brother of Larson's longtime girlfriend.
"After the wreck I had in Sunday's Cup race my body us still too sore to compete," Larson posted on Twitter. "With the NASCAR off weekend coming up I feel it is best to use that time to let my body recover and not risk anything else."
DW ON JJ
With his win Sunday at California, Jimmie Johnson passed the late Dale Earnhardt for sole possession of seventh on NASCAR's list of all-time victories.
Standing immediately ahead of the six-time champion now is Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough (83 wins) and Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison (84 wins) and both marks are realistically reachable this year for Johnson. His win Sunday was the 77th of his career, and Johnson has been known to reel off multiple-win seasons. He won a career-high 10 races in 2007.
Waltrip, a FOX NASCAR analyst and three-time champion, is tied with Allison for fourth on the all-time wins list and is impressed with the speed in which Johnson has amassed his victories. Johnson has done it in 15 years.
"He hasn't been in the sport all that long, so the amount of time it took him to break Dale Earnhardt's record is remarkable," Waltrip said. "Johnson is a phenomenon like Jeff Gordon, his mentor. What's most impressive is the amount of time it took him to hit this mark — not so much the mark itself."
Now Waltrip believes Johnson is focused on climbing up the leaderboard and winning a seventh title, which would tie him for most in NASCAR history with Earnhardt and Richard Petty.
"When you break a record like Jimmie did and are reaching milestones, you realize those next goals are not too lofty or unattainable," Waltrip said. "It's not just catching Cale in race wins now, though. Jimmie also wants to win seven or eight championships. And Jimmie probably would like to win 100 races."