LONG BEACH, California – The Indianapolis 500 has a unique way of bringing people together.
In 1994, AJ Foyt Racing partnered with Jonathan Byrd Racing to put John Andretti behind the wheel in what was the first ‘double’ on Memorial Day weekend, when Andretti ran both the Indianapolis 500 and 600-mile NASCAR Cup race in Charlotte on the same day.
In 2018, the formation was a year in the making. David Byrd, a Jonathan Byrd Racing principal and son of the team’s late namesake, was impressed with James Davison’s performance in the 2017 Indy 500 when he stepped in for an injured Sebastien Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing, started last, charged to the front and led two laps before finishing 20th.
“It’s been a long time coming,” David Byrd said. “James and I really started working on this when the checkered flag flew last year (at the Indy 500). I was so impressed with his performance in last year's race, and just felt like after taking a step back last year, not having a program, that he was going to be the right guy to bring us back and really start a new era for us. Being able to put the program together with Larry (Foyt, president of AJ Foyt Racing) has been a great experience, and I think it's going to be a competitive program.”
Larry Foyt and David Byrd were also pleased to bring Brad Hollinger and Brian Belardi into the ownership mix. Hollinger is an American businessman who is part owner of the Williams Formula 1 team. Belardi has run a successful Mazda Road to Indy program for years.
“This will be Brad Hollinger’s first time having his name on the entry as an owner for the Indy 500,” Byrd said. “For Brian as well, it’s been something he’s wanted to do. To set that up for himself, to where he wouldn’t even watch or be at the 500 until he was in the 500… that says something about the regard in which he holds it.”
Veteran team manager Steve Moore and engineer Kyle Brannan, who both worked with Davison at KV Racing in 2014, will oversee the bid this year. AJ Foyt Racing is providing the equipment.
David Byrd cited the significance of the number 33, since Andretti used that number in the 1994 Foyt/Byrd alliance for the race and this is the 33rd anniversary of the Byrds’ first Indy 500 entry.
“My father partnered with A.J. back in 1994 … and this year I'm able to work with Larry, so kind of a multigenerational thing happening,” Byrd said. “So it's kind of exciting and fun, and some similarities to that program.
“Anytime you go to Indy with A.J., it’s special,” Byrd added. “A.J. was bigger than life when I was growing up and first going to Indy.
“So to be a part of that program is great.”