Senior staff writer
For most of the 102nd Indianapolis 500, team owner Dennis Reinbold could see Dreyer & Reinbold Racing drivers Sage Karam and J.R. Hildebrand in position for top-10 finishes.
Longing for a 500 win, the veteran team owner witnessed Karam’s rise from 24th starting position to sixth after 150 laps in the No. 24 WIX Filters/DRR Chevrolet and Hildebrand’s drive from 27th to fifth midway in the race with a different fuel strategy in the No. 66 Salesforce/DRR Chevrolet.
Karam, who avoided three accidents, found himself in a sliding car in the fourth turn on Lap 154 and struck the outer wall for 28th place.
“It just snapped around,” Reinbold said of Karam’s accident. “He said the car had not felt like that all day. It’s disappointing because he was up to seventh and was in position to move up.”
In his fourth consecutive 500 for DRR, Karam later said he may have had a cut rear tire.
“We had a car to race into the top five,” Karam said. “I feel badly because the DRR crew worked so hard to prepare a good machine this month. Then this happens. I love Indy so much and now my race ends like this. I know I want to come back here next year and race hard again.”
Hildebrand pitted on Lap 168 and soldiered to 11th place, making DRR the seventh different team among the top 11.
“Obviously, we aren’t happy with 11th,” said Reinbold. “He (Hildebrand) had some great restarts and drove hard all day.”
The return of Jonathan Byrd Racing turned from optimism on the night before the 500 to disappointment on race day.
Driving the No. 33 JBR Chevrolet, James Davison started 19th and encountered handling problems from the get-go. On Lap 48 he drove high into Turn 1 and was struck by 2017 race winner Takuma Sato. Davison finished last.
Team principal David Byrd II said one night earlier that the crew had found the right combination that enabled Davison to qualify 19th on Pole Day after being on the bubble on Bump Day.
The Byrd family expects to return to the 500 next year and continue the racing legacy of the late Jonathan Byrd, a Greenwood native.
No driver has won the 500 from the last row, but 2016 winner Alexander Rossi was in the final eight-lap, five-driver duel that unsuccessfully challenged eventual winner Will Power.
Driving the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda, Rossi was 26th after 10 laps, 12th after 73, third after 160 and led Lap 173 before making his last pit stop. He finished fourth, 5.223 seconds behind Power.
Inaugural winner Ray Harroun in 1911 and Louis Meyer in 1936 each started 28th; Johnny Rutherford started from 25th before winning in 1974.
Team Penske’s winnings with Will Power were $2.5 million from a $13 million-plus purse as announced at the Victory Banquet Monday.