JR Hildebrand is living the adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’

Browse through his history at the Indianapolis 500, starting with his near-win with Panther Racing as a rookie in 2011 through his charge to 12th with A.J. Foyt Racing in 2022, and there’s an impressive body of work that’s been generated by the 35-year-old Californian.

The one item missing from that record is a run at Indy in 2023, which ended 12 straight years of being a factor in the great American race. He was in Gasoline Alley more than once last May as a potential replacement for a few drivers, but nothing came to fruition. After sitting out for a year, Hildebrand is determined to get back to business at the 500.

“Missing it last year, and through the month being on the verge of getting chucked into a car like three different times, just really solidified that feeling that this is something that I love doing,” Hildebrand told RACER. “Ultimately, it made me appreciate how much I actually enjoy the process of going to Indy and doing it and how unique the challenge is as a driver and the experience that place gives you as a driver. I’m definitely keen to get back and I’m actively working on reconciling that situation for myself this year,”

There aren’t many seats left to fill for the 108th running of the race. Abel Motorsports says it has yet to solidify its plans but is leaning towards returning with RC Enerson. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is expected to field its pair of entries for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Conor Daly. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing hasn’t announced its fourth driver, but Takuma Sato’s name has been spoken of on a frequent basis.

And of all the possible options to aim for, A.J. Foyt Racing continues to draw the most interest from those like Hildebrand who want to not only race at Indy, but also have a highly competitive car to wield for 200 laps. Coming off a run to third with Santino Ferrucci, and the new technical alliance with Team Penske, defending winners of the 500, Foyt’s extra Indy entry is a hot commodity to secure.

“There’s a lot of interesting situations out there about how that’s gonna shake out,” Hildebrand said. “The Foyts are obviously one that will prove to be a pretty solid scenario. You talk to everybody and see where they’re at, and it’s much more fun when you’re in equipment that you really know from the beginning can go out and compete at a high level.

“What’s super rewarding for me is just being able to work with a good group and being able to elevate that group to feel like you’ve got a puncher’s shot at it when you roll off the grid on race. It’s totally worth it, and so that’s what I’m going after.”