Sage Karam, Reinbold looking forward to additional races in 2020

Chris Jones / IndyCar

The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season begins this weekend, and for the first time in six years, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will be on the paddock at St. Petersburg.

A staple of the series from 2000-12, DRR competed in the first five races of the 2013 season before withdrawing from full-time status because of sponsorship issues. The team since has run on an Indy-only basis.

But that will change this season. DRR will compete in at least three races this year, including St. Pete, the Indy 500, and at least one more street course race following Indy.

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While till far from a full-time schedule, team owner Dennis Reinbold said he is looking forward to competing in additional events again.

“I’m ecstatic. It’s one of those things that you don’t know how much you miss it until it starts becoming real,” Reinbold said. “It’s been six years since we’ve done a road or street course or anything outside of Indy really. We’re excited to branch out and do some more this year.”

Once again, WIX Filters returns as a sponsor of DRR’s No. 24 Chevrolet, as will driver Sage Karam. Five of Karam’s six Indy 500 starts have been with DRR, and the 25-year-old looks forward to continuing to build his relationship with the team. 

“I get along really well with all the crew members at Dreyer & Reinbold and with Dennis, I look at him as almost like a second father,” Karam said. “I can go to him for anything. He’s one of the good guys of motorsports. It’s hard nowadays finding loyal people and people you can really trust in the racing world, and I feel like I’ve been lucky and blessed to be able to come into this team.” 

Like DRR, Karam’s IndyCar starts outside of the 500 have been few and far between. The 25-year-old competed in 12 of 16 races for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2015 and ran at Toronto and Iowa for Carlin last year, but he has yet to run a full schedule. 

Similarly to Reinbold, Karam also desires to compete full-time. But both parties know that there’s still plenty of work to do and funding to secure before DRR is on the grid at every race of the season. 

The team has been making a series of calculated moves to ensure the most from its 2020 program. Aside from Indy, the team is focused solely on improving its rhythm on the street courses before attempting to run other ovals and road courses.

“I want to be realistic. Are we ready to go back to natural-terrain road courses like Barber and Mid-Ohio? No. We’re not,” Reinbold said. “We didn’t do the COTA test on purpose because we were like ‘let’s focus on the street courses because we know that’s what we’re going to do’.”

Instead of Circuit Of The Americas, the team elected to test in January at Sebring, whose bumpy track surface replicates the conditions of street courses like St. Petersburg, so testing there was a logical decision. 

Reinbold said that testing at a track other than Indy for the first time in several years did present initial challenges, but the team learned a lot from Sebring.

“We’ve been kind of drinking from a firehose from the standpoint of relearning the things that we haven’t touched for a while,” Reinbold said. “It’s been a lot of fun.

“We have a ton of data that we have worked hard to sort through. Just brakes and shocks and all of those things that you have to work on to be able to come out and A: not embarrass yourself, and B: be competitive, which is our goal.”

In addition to St. Pete, Reinbold said that the team will race at Detroit or Toronto later this season, with a small chance that the team could compete in both weekends.

“We haven’t finalized on that as of right now so the back half of that is up in the air a little bit, Reinbold said. “We’re looking into which one is going to fit us best.”

While DRR is taking a slow approach to returning to full-time competition, the team doesn’t have a set timeframe for when they plan to do so. Nor is the team looking to replicate Meyer Shank Racing’s model of increasing the number of races they compete in each year. 

“We’re not tailoring ourselves after anybody else to that degree,” Reinbold said. “We want to do more. We got to do a better job of finding a better budget to be able to do that. That’s where we stand.

“I like the idea of doing a full season and we want to get back there. It’s just baby steps for a little bit until we can put it all together and we haven’t gotten it all together at this point in time.”

While the road to full-time status may be a slow one, Karam has faith in Reinbold and trusts his decisions. 

“Dennis, he’s one of those guys who’s just not going to do it because he has to do it and wants to do it. If he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it right,” Karam said. “I don’t think he’s going to come into this knowing he’s got to cut corners to make certain races happen. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to do that either. He’s doing this the right way, and we’re going to chip our way at it.”

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Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).