The 2024 season marks Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s 25th year competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. But nine of the last 10 have seen the team contest only the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
The only exception came in 2020, when DRR raced in the three events around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Scaling back to focusing just on Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a decision team owner Dennis Reinbold didn’t take lightly. If his team was going to make a triumphant return to an INDYCAR SERIES victory lane for the first time since DRR’s maiden start in the 2000 season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway, tough decisions had to be made.
“When we stopped being full time, we realized that it would take a significant investment to really concentrate and do the testing required to be able to compete for wins on different disciplines of courses, like short courses, street courses, natural terrain road courses and superspeedways,” Reinbold said.
“Indy was at the core of what we did. We didn't have enough sponsorship to be able to really invest in all disciplines of racing, so we focused on Indy at that point in time.”
Being a one-off Indy team has specific challenges. Just a single team that planned to enter Indy only has triumphed in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since the mid-1960s – Bryan Herta Autosport with Dan Wheldon driving, in 2011.
DRR thinks it’s ready to become the second, with 2014 “500” winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Conor Daly behind the wheel.
The organization is using the focused effort on Indy to its advantage. Among the one-off entries announced thus far (R.C. Enerson with Abel Motorsports, Kyle Larson with Arrow McLaren-Hendrick, Marco Andretti with Andretti Global, Christian Rasmussen with Ed Carpenter Racing, Helio Castroneves with Meyer Shank Racing and the pair from DRR) only Abel and DRR are Indy only. The other teams race the entire NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule, and Abel runs a full-time INDY NXT by Firestone team.
But Reinbold thinks that’s an advantage for his team. From the moment the checkered flag was displayed in last year’s race until the green flag waves this May 26, DRR’s focus is on just one race.
Since scaling back to an Indy-only effort, DRR has placed a car in the top 10 in three of the last 10 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge tries. The team had four combined top-10 finishes in the 14 years prior, including the 2008 Indianapolis 500 when it had Buddy Rice and Townsend Bell finish eighth and 10th, respectively.
“Our only goal is to win the race,” Reinbold said “So, we started there. Our criteria was, let's go out there and do everything we can to win the race, put the best drivers possible that can do that.
“We're excited to put this effort together. It's probably our best effort that we've had from the start going into the season. We're a little past due to win this thing, so that's our goal this year.”
2012 INDYCAR SERIES champion Hunter-Reay returns to the team for the second consecutive year and is attempting to make his 16th Indianapolis 500 start.
“I found last year a tremendous upside to the Indy-only focus from the team,” Hunter-Reay said. “I mean, nobody was tired. Everybody was motivated. The amount of attention to detail that they put into these cars, that the team does, is the best I have seen. I've been with a lot of great teams.”
A year ago, Hunter-Reay qualified 18th and finished 11th despite a broken front wing adjuster that didn’t allow him to change the aerodynamic balance for much of the 200-lap race. A solid finish despite that problem has made Hunter-Reay confident about his chances this May.
“I wouldn't be here if I didn't,” Hunter-Reay said. “I thought that last year, as well. I think if we wouldn't have had that ($25 part issue), we would have been up in the top five fighting at the end.
“I think they do a great job on the car prep here. The consistency of what they've done was beyond my expectations. I've got no reason to think otherwise, that we can go out there and compete for a win.”
His teammate, Daly, agreed with the assessment.
“We obviously know the cars are fast,” Daly said. “Every year that I've been a part of the ‘500,’ at least in the last several years, I've always found a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car in the top five or top 10 as you're up there racing. I started right next to Ryan last year. I saw his car plenty of times.
“Going into the race knowing that, that's why we're here. We don't show up to lose. Both Ryan and I want to win. When it comes to doing the Indy 500 only, I think this is the best shot that we have.”
Daly is attempting to make his 11th Indianapolis 500 start, the last four coming with Ed Carpenter Racing. He’s had a top-10 finish in three of the last five years, including leading a race-high 40 of 200 laps en route to a sixth-place finish in 2022 and an eighth-place result last May.
“Obviously, in my position right now, I would have loved to have been doing more INDYCAR racing, of course,” Daly said. “But the Indy 500 is without a doubt my ultimate goal. To win, I want to be like Ryan and to be able to know what the milk tastes like. Obviously, to be able to do that for Dennis would be amazing.
“It's the best possible scenario. All you do when you show up to May is have the best chance to win. I've obviously got a lot of experience there now. I do believe I know what it takes to run up front. Obviously, Ryan does, too.”