Former Verizon IndyCar Series drivers JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani will return to IndyCar this May as the latest people to ink contracts for Indiananapolis drives in 2016. Hildebrand’s signing was announced via a league press release while Tagliani’s deal was earlier reported by Racer.
Hildebrand (pictured above) will drive the No. 6 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet for both the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14 and the Indianapolis 500 on May 29. It will be the third year in a row he’s driven for the team; since being released from his full-time IndyCar drive by Panther Racing in 2013, Hildebrand placed tenth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 for ECR, and competed in both the GP of Indianapolis (21st) and Indianapolis 500 (8th) last year.
The 28-year-old ran just two full-time seasons – 2011 and 2012 – but has remained involved with the league, including addressing the crowd at the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration to pay tribute to his late former teammate Justin Wilson.
“Especially going into this year’s 100th Running of the 500, you know everyone is bringing their absolute best to the fight,” Hildebrand said in the IndyCar press release. “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. I’m looking forward to working with Ed and Josef again.”
Tagliani is slated to also drive the GP and Indianapolis 500 for A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
The 42-year-old Canadian spent his 2015 season splitting time between the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and is also a veteran of sportscar racing. He spent eight years in IndyCar, ending with departing Bryan Herta Autosport in 2013. He is also a veteran of Indianapolis-only racing, having run the 500 two years ago for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (finishing 13th) and last year for Foyt (17th).
It’s incredibly common for IndyCar teams to run specific drivers either for solely the Indianapolis 500 or for both of the Indianapolis-based events in May. Hildebrand and Tagliani join rookies Spencer Pigot (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and Matthew Brabham (PIRTEK Team Murray) as entrants for the two races.
Former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), Pippa Mann (Dale Coyne Racing), Katherine Legge (Grace Autosport), Bryan Clauson (Jonathan Byrd’s Racing) and Buddy Lazier (Lazier Partners Racing) are so far confirmed solely for the historic 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, with more hopefuls likely to be announced in the next month.
One major seat remains open as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is seeking a third driver to compete alongside James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin at the 500. Racer reports the team is considering Gabby Chaves – who filled in for Aleshin during pre-season testing – as well as NBCSN IndyCar commentator Townsend Bell, and has also looked at NASCAR veteran Brian Vickers, who is currently substituting for Tony Stewart in the Sprint Cup Series.