Not many racing teams start out like Dreyer & Reinbold did: in Victory Lane.
It was 20 years ago at Orlando when Robbie Buhl stormed from 22nd to win the Indy Racing League season-opener on debut of Dennis Reinbold’s modest operation. It was either the best or worst thing that could have happened, because it put the hook in the Indianapolis car dealer, and today he’s still fishing for success.
But after six years as an Indy 500-only competitor and this year’s expanded program, when DRR competed in four additional races, Reinbold is reevaluating everything about the future. He’ll keep playing in May only if that’s fate, but he’s looking for a way to ramp things up and return to full-time status.
“I want to figure out a way to improve our team and grow, and hopefully do more races if that’s in the cards,” says Reinbold, who grew up with racing in his blood as the grandson of “Pop” Dreyer. “Adding an investor or more sponsorship to get us to full-time is the goal. But status quo is not fine with us, and it’s no fun to run in the back. I don’t want to just participate.”
DRR Racing is not your average part-time IndyCar team. There are 10 full-time employees on the payroll and another wave of part-timers that keep busy with special projects. The team has also been full-time in rallycross since 2013, with numerous wins (16) and podiums each year, winning or finishing second in the Lites Championship the last five years.
“We have invested in our rallycross program in order to compete for wins and championships, and need to take this same approach toward IndyCar continuing to improve our results,” says Reinbold.
“I’m proud of the fact we don’t have massive layoffs at the end of the season and keep people working so we don’t have to start over every year. It’s difficult to revamp your work force.”
Almost as difficult as being part-timers in IndyCar.
“Obviously, it’s hard to show up against full-time teams and unload – it’s a hard thing to do,” he agrees. “I’m happy with the quality of cars we put out there and we added a few races this year but it’s certainly more desirable to be full-time. You have that data catalog from being at all the races. I want to up our level of competitiveness and I think our area of weakness is depth.”
‘Dept’h has the same amount of letters as ‘money’, and they’re closely related. Reinbold is the sole owner of this team and while his BMW, Infiniti, Volkswagen, Subaru and MINI dealerships have afforded his wife and two sons a comfortable life, he’s not got the lockboxes or sponsorships of Penske, Ganassi, Andretti or Arrow McLaren SP.
“WIX Filters started with us and Paul Tracy in 2011 at Indy and they’ve also supported our rally car, he says. “They’ve been good and loyal. Just like Dana Mecum and Mecum Auctions, who have been with us since 2013.
“I think IndyCar has worked hard on keeping cost contained as well as they can without sacrificing the on-track product. It’s probably $4-5 million a year to be competitive at a full-time level, and we’re probably $2-3 million away from full-time. We did a little better this year but then the pandemic hit, and I imagine it’s going to take a toll on everyone next year.”
Justin Wilson gave DRR a couple of second-place finishes in 2010, Oriol Servia finished fourth at Indy in 2013 and Sage Karam debuted with a ninth at IMS in 2014 as a teenager. But whether it’s been J.R. Hildebrand or Karam, the Speedway results have been disappointing ever since 2014, and as we witnessed at the recent Harvest GP doubleheader on the IMS road course, even big names like Castroneves and Bourdais struggled with pinch-hitting after being on the sidelines.
Reinbold says he’s got no deal with Karam beyond the finale at St. Pete in two weeks, and told the former Indy Lights champ to look for the best opportunity available. That’s the same advice he’s giving himself.
“We’re at a little bit of a crossroads,” he says. “We have to invest to get the competition side better, and there’s a lot of things to consider. We’ll talk to other people and see if there’s a good fit. I’m looking at it as an opportunity to expand and grow, and I’m not locked into anything.
“The worst case is we’ll continue doing Indy, but that’s not good enough. I want to get back to full-time if there’s any way possible.”