On the surface, Dennis Reinbold’s team might be perceived as an Indy-only operation, a band of Speedway-loving racers who turn up each May and hope to perform well among the full-time NTT IndyCar Series entrants.
It’s here where the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing organization stands out as one of the most unique entities in Gasoline Alley as the Indianapolis 500 is but one of many events on its annual calendar. For the rest of the year, DRR applies its expertise to something other than open-wheel racing, and while the vehicles and style of competition are radically different, the operation as a whole is warmed and ready to compete at the Speedway long before opening practice begins.
“We’re a full-time team; that’s one of the big misconceptions about us and that we just put this together once a year, but we’re full-time, year-round,” Reinbold told RACER. “The Indy 500 is what we do in IndyCar, and we’ve done a few other races outside of Indy in the past, but we’re full-time in the Nitro Rallycross and we do a lot of other projects. We’ve got four electric rallycross cars that will debut this June and then we have four rallycross lights cars in the series that we’ve been running for about 10 years now.
“It’s a global series. And you know, going there this season with IndyCar veterans, from engineering all the way through all of our techs, is really an advantage that we have because we’re used to dealing with troubleshooting in IndyCar and things like that, and there’s gonna be a fair amount of that this year. So we feel really well prepared going in there with Indy 500 mechanics. It’s a little overkill, but we won a lot of races and championships in rallycross and we keep active and racing all year long.”
Reinbold delights in seeing his DRR team arrive at the Speedway and perform well; drivers Santino Ferrucci and Sage Karam were quick during Tuesday’s opening practice session with Karam’s No. 24 Chevy ending the day in eighth position at 226.398mph and Ferrucci — new to DRR — 19th at 225.362mph among the field of 33 drivers.
One reason for the team’s ability to hit its stride on Day 1 is found in DRR’s composition. Veteran IndyCar driver and team owner Sarah Fisher and her team manager husband Andy O’Gara continue to be involved with Reinbold’s Indy 500 effort along with some of their experienced IndyCar crew. There’s even an ongoing link with former sponsor Wink Hartman, who co-owned Fisher’s former IndyCar team and sponsored their driver at the time, future two-time champion Josef Newgarden, whose Hartman Oil company is featured on the front-wing endplates on Ferrucci’s car.
“We’ve worked with Andy and Sarah for the last I don’t know how many years, and that’s where the Wink Hartman association comes in,” Reinbold said. “Sarah always stops by and helps as well and with them involved helping us with some of their people, we’re able to bring in more great crew members who just mesh really well with everyone here. Going back to running two cars here was big to have Andy and Sarah involved there because we have really good personnel to draw from.”
DRR has also bolstered its engineering group as the team hunts for its first Indianapolis pole and win. Joining Jeff Britton who’s worked as race engineer on Karam’s car, Ferrucci has Charlie Ping as his race engineer, and with 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice working with the team, his former Indy-winning race engineer is also plugged into the organization to add another layer of depth. The big target for Reinbold this year is have his drivers in the fight for the lead from the moment the green flag waves on Sunday, May 29.
“We’ve decided to put a lot of emphasis on our qualifying effort, so that’s we brought in some other people on the engineering side and so far, so good,” he said. “It’s really early in the month, but we’re pretty happy about where we’re starting. It can change on a dime, as you know, but we’re pretty happy.”
DRR’s final change for 2022 comes in the form of its youthful driver line-up. Karam’s the old man among the duo at 27 with eight Indy 500s on his CV while Ferrucci brings three starts to the team at the age of 23. Karam owns a pair of top-10 finishes while Ferrucci has yet to finish worse than seventh; together, Reinbold is hoping the all-American line-up will deliver something spectacular.
“These guys are both aggressive drivers, which I like; Santino’s been a breath of fresh air to us joining up with Sage,” he said. “He’s ultra-focused and really knows what he’s after, and we’re trying to accommodate that. The good news is both guys really like a lot of the same things in the car, so we’re working together and our plan is to be able to go a couple of different directions and meet back after Santino gathers some information, Sage gathers other bits of information, and find what works best. We’ve seen some benefit to this combination and feel comfortable with both guys already.”