How the deal for AJ Foyt Racing/Hildebrand came about

INDIANAPOLIS — Celebrating the 60th anniversary of A.J. Foyt’s first triumph in the Indianapolis 500, ABC Supply Co. Inc. will sponsor a fourth AJ Foyt Racing entry in this year’s 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. J.R. Hildebrand will pilot the No. 1 ABC Supply Chevrolet.

“ABC Supply is excited for the opportunity to support AJ Foyt Racing by sponsoring the No. 1 car for the Indy 500,” said Mike Jost, COO of ABC Supply. “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.”

As a tribute to Foyt’s feat, the car will sport a throwback livery of the No. 1 Bowes Seal Fast Offenhauser roadster that Foyt drove in 1961. The car’s candy apple red nose will be trimmed with black stripes over a primarily white body. Further echoing the vintage livery, a large red No. 1 will emblazon the rear of the engine cover in addition to the normal positions on the nose and rear wing. The No. 1 belongs to PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing as the reigning champion but as a courtesy, Ganassi released the number to Foyt’s team for the Indy 500.

AJ is just so pumped to be allowed to see this happen. He never expected to win in 1961, let alone make it in life this long as he cherishes every day that he’s been given.

With that said, where did this come from?

Larry Foyt said that they were just sitting around the shop and thinking about this possibility and decided lets try to make it work. If they were going to make it happen, they needed a veteran driver. By expanding to a fourth car for the first time in two decades, it was going to stretch resources more thin than normal. So, you can’t have someone out there tearing up equipment.

JR Hildebrand came to mind as Foyt admitted that the two have talked in recent years about trying to put a program together. So, why not try again?

“Growing to four cars, we wanted to make sure it’s a guy that had a lot of experience here,” said Larry Foyt. “He 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.”

So, now that you have a plan and driver in place, you need a sponsor. ABC Supply had been a long time sponsor/supporter of the team and with them not being in the sport for 2021, why not see if they’d like to comeback and try again with this new plan?

ABC obliged and was happy to rejoin them.

The only other hiccup was that the No. 1 is reserved each year for the defending series champion. Chip Ganassi Racing owns the rights to that number even though they aren’t using it. So, in order for Foyt to get the No. 1 for this entry, they had to make the call to Chip Ganassi.

“We had to get No. 1 from Chip, so it was nice for them to lend it,” AJ Foyt said. “We had already reserved No. 61 in case we had to have a different number.

“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. 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 excited about what were doing.”

“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.”

AJ Foyt Racing has run three cars in five of the last six years (2019 the only exception) but hasn’t run four cars in 2000. In that year, Roberto Guerrero didn’t make the race in the 20T entry. In fact, in three of the four years that they ran four cars here, one of the cars didn’t make the race. The only time that four cars for Foyt made the race was in 1987.

So, why will this year be different?

They feel like the team is well positioned to do well and thinks that with the quality of a driver Sebastien Bourdais is, how strong Dalton Kellett got up to speed a year ago mixed with one offs for veterans Charlie Kimball and Hildebrand, it should be a good mix to get all four into the field next month.

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