Photo: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Alex Keyes confirms GRC Lites return with DRR, WIX Filters

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Past GRC Lites division race winner Alex Keyes will continue in the division this year, the second rung in the Red Bull Global Rallycross, and is back with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

The full release is below:

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (DRR) is excited to announce Alex Keyes, three-time Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) feature winner, will return to the racetrack this season. Driving in the No. 24 DRR Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites car, Keyes will showcase WIX®Filters as the primary sponsor partner for six races.

Keyes, the 18-year-old driver from Folsom, California, made a dramatic debut last year with Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites victories at the New River Military Base, Washington D.C., and the season finale in Las Vegas. In addition, Keyes recorded four podium finishes and placed sixth in the final Lites point standings as a rookie.

The former open-wheel star is scheduled to compete in numerous 2016 Red Bull GRC Lites events including the season-opening weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona, May 20-22. The No. 24 will feature WIX primary livery at the famed Daytona International Speedway June 17-19, as well as at The Base at MCAS New River in Jacksonville, NC on July 1-3, in Washington D.C. on July 30, and in Atlantic City on August 28. WIX will serve as a full time major associate partner for the Red Bull GRC Lites season on the No. 24 entry. 

“We love partnering with these young drivers,” said Jennifer Gibson, brand manager for WIX. “Their passion for the sport only equals their enthusiasm for their fans, and it’s remarkable to be around. The energy is infectious, and we can’t wait to see how this year unfolds.”

WIX products include oil, air and fuel filters that have been track-tested and proven in all levels of stock car, dirt track, off-road and drag racing. WIX uses motorsports as a grueling testing ground for scenarios involving high temperatures, fluctuations in pressure and rapid breakdown in engine oil.

“I’m very excited to return with the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team in 2016,” said Keyes, a former Formula Car Challenge Series champion in 2014. “Last year’s series was an eye-opening experience, and I learned a lot. But the biggest take away for me? It was the most fun I’ve ever had racing; it was intense. You always had to be on top of it. There’s a learning process, and once I worked through mistakes and the team as a whole started to learn the cars, we really found a good rhythm.” 

DRR will field two Red Bull GRC Lites machines in 2016, including the No. 2 DRR Red Bull GRC Lites entry with newcomer Cabot Bigham and Paratek Pharmaceuticals. Coming off a 2015 season resulting in four wins and eight podium finishes, DRR is poised for continued success in 2016. The DRR organization has been successful in the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2000 and continues to expand its effort within both Red Bull GRC SuperCar and Lites series.

“We are very pleased to have both WIX Filters and Alex back with our Lites program in 2016. WIX has been a partner since the beginning, and we believe the pairing couldn’t be a more appropriate fit,” said Dennis Reinbold, team owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. “Alex has developed into a strong contender and team leader, winning three races with us in 2015. He’s gained the experience and confidence to win at any circuit in the series. We’re excited to have Alex debut at the season opener, and we look forward to working hard and producing results both on- and off-track for WIX in 2016.”

Keyes, 18, was a successful karting racer for six years before moving into formula cars in 2013 where he was chosen as a Lynx Racing Academy driver, competing in the Pacific F1600 series. In 2014, he moved up to the West Coast Formula Pro Mazda class and captured the title with ten wins and 13 pole positions. He also competed in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. 

Former Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice again will serve as a driver consultant and program manager for DRR’s GRC Lites program. DRR will continue to utilize many of his personnel from its IndyCar team, including engineering, mechanical, shock and damper, and management staff.

“I work well with Buddy as he comes from a similar background as me: the Lynx Academy,” said Keyes. “All DRR mechanics are hard workers who know how to put it out there on the racetrack! In 2016, everything for me is going out and trying to win every race, no one remembers who finishes second.”

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”