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.
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.”