Longtime Indianapolis 500 team owner Dennis Reinbold was asked point blank earlier this month about the fuel that drives him to return year after year to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I’ve got to win this race,” the Greenwood auto dealership owner replied. “I mean, we need to win, and that’s really it. That’s the only reason we show up – to put the car in victory lane. We work year-round to try to do that and try to improve and get better than we have before.”
The personable team owner is among the early teams in the series that has evolved into the NTT IndyCar Series. Driver Robbie Buhl won for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2000 at Orlando, Fla. His team competed in the series until 2013; since then, it has been a multiple-car effort in the Indianapolis 500.
Reinbold returns with drivers Sage Karam for his sixth 500, JR Hildebrand for the second time with the team and ninth overall.
“Sixth times a charm,” Karam, 24 years old, said of his prospects Sunday.
The team’s best finish came in 2012 when Oriol Servia finished fourth for co-owners Reinbold and Panther Racing. Last year, Karam started 24th, worked his way into sixth place on lap 154 but then crashed on the next lap. Hildebrand started 27th and finished 11th.
“A lot of times I’ll sit there through the middle of the race and say, all the things that we worked on in the last year have piled up to this moment, and we’re as prepared and ready to win this race as possible, and for whatever reason we haven’t pulled that off quite as of yet,” Reinbold explained. “Here’s to this being the year.”
Reinbold, a descendent of Duesenberg racing mechanic “Pop” Dryer, strives to return to the IndyCar series fulltime.
“That’s definitely on our radar,” he said hopefully. “We do aspire to be more involved; we believe in IndyCar very, very much. We may have to do part-time to get there. We have to make it work out financially and every other aspect.”
Meanwhile, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has four cars in IMG-sanctioned American Rallycross ARX2 with six different drivers, including Karam. The team won the 2017 championship and was second last year. Internationally, rallycross is to begin racing with electric-powered cars in 2022 overseas.
Owning two racecars among eight “one-off” cars, Reinbold laughed when asked about fulltime teams having guaranteed spots in the Indianapolis 500.
He immediately grinned and said, “It says they’re scared of us.”
Reinbold added, “I don’t think it’s an issue. I mean, we have to beat people to get in the race this year, so it’s going to be the same way going forward.”
Wearing No. 48, the local sponsored SalesForce Chevrolet Dallara driven by Hildebrand is a tribute to famed team owner, car builder and driver Dan Gurney. Bobby Unser provided Gurney with his only 500 win in the 1975 500. Gurney finished second in 1968 and 1969 driving his famed Eagle brand.
Hildebrand qualified late Saturday at 227.908 mph and is on the outside of the seventh row.
Karam tried five times to qualify among positions 10-30 under the new format but wasn’t fast enough so he was among six drivers seeking three last-row positions. After a long rain delay, the former high school wrestler put the No. 24 WIX Filters in the field at 227.740 mph, the fastest among qualifiers for the last row.
“When you do something special, it really feels great,” Karam said of his pressure-filled run. “You look at the guys in the last chance six now. There were big names and big teams. We’re a strong one-off race team.”
They hope to show the strength of Dreyer Reinbold Racing on race day Sunday.