Friday, April 26, 2013

Is This It for Dreyer & Reinbold?

They won on debut on a late January day at a racetrack in the middle of the most recognizable theme park in the United States, if not the World. It was the second and final career win for a 36-year old from the Motor City, Detriot, Michigan. To date, it's the only win for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and if the reports are true, the team will only have two more shots for win number two and one of them will be the Indianapolis 500.

The team founded by Dennis Reinbold and Eric De Bord in 1999 has been through the oval-only days of the IRL, the transition to road and street course in 2005, unification in 2008 and the disaster that was Lotus along with the reintroduction of turbocharged engines with the inception of the DW12 chassis in 2012. Now the team is facing financial uncertainty and may have only a little over a month left before the team has to close up shop for the near future.

It's been 201 races since the team won on debut in the final race at Walt Disney World Speedway on January 29, 2000. Now co-owner of the team, Robbie Buhl won that day. Though Dreyer & Reinbold has yet to return to victory lane, the team has employed some noticeable names. They hired Sarah Fisher when she was without a ride in 2003 and when she returned from a year and a half of stock car racing in 2005. Ryan Briscoe made his first start after his fiery accident at Chicagoland ended his first stint with Chip Ganassi Racing. Briscoe finished third that day at Watkins Glen. Justin Wilson ran two seasons for the team and nearly won at Toronto in 2010. They were the home of Ana Beatriz's debut at São Paulo in 2010 as well as the home for the debuts of JR Hildebrand, Mike Conway and Jeff Bucknum. They were also home to the career finales of Davey Hamilton, Darren Manning and Steve Knapp.

Though winless at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, three Indianapolis 500 winners have raced for the team. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier ran most of the 2006 season for D&R. Al Unser Jr. made his second to last Indianapolis 500 appearance for the team in 2006. Buddy Rice ran the 2007 and 2008 seasons for D&R with his best finish being fourth twice at Iowa 2007 and Watkins Glen 2008. And just for good measure, unofficial 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner Paul Tracy made 4 starts over two seasons, including what appears to be his final Indianapolis 500 start in 2011.

The team ran Milka Duno for two seasons but we won't hold that against them. Others have made relief appearances for the team due to injuries. Graham Rahal stepped in at Iowa after Mike Conway got hurt at Indianapolis in 2010. Simon Pagenaud made his first start in American open-wheel racing in nearly four years at Barber after Ana Beatriz broke her wrists at St. Pete in 2011 and Pagenaud would make two more starts that season after Justin Wilson broke his back at Mid-Ohio.

Currently situated with Oriol Serviá, the team needs a financial miracle to keep the doors open and the car on the grid. This is not a new situation for Serviá. In 2002, the Catalan driver was at PacWest Racing when the team closed its doors before the CART Milwaukee race. Serviá missed six races before getting a seat at Patrick Racing. Meanwhile, his teammate at PacWest at the time the team closed went to Chip Ganassi Racing. That driver was a 21-year old New Zealander named Scott Dixon. Serviá career has been filled with movement. He stayed with Patrick Racing in 2003 but was driving for Dale Coyne in 2004. After the first two races of 2005 with Coyne, Serviá filled in for an injured Bruno Junqueira at Newman-Haas and the Spaniard picked up his first and so far only career win at Montreal. He moved to PKV Racing in 2006 and was without a ride at the beginning of 2007. After Paul Tracy broke his back at Long Beach, Serviá was in at Forsythe and finished second in his first race. He would would run eleven races before moving back to PKV where he stayed through 2008 and reunification. 2009 saw Serviá run Indianapolis with Rahal-Letterman and he would get another four races for Newman-Haas later that season. He sat out for all of 2010 and returned in 2011 with Newman-Haas where he finished fouth in the points. Newman-Haas closed shop after 2011 and he went to Dreyer & Reinbold. After four races with Lotus, Serviá finished fourth at Indianapolis with his first race with Chevrolet.

Serviá's future is just as cloudy as D&R's. At 38, he is the third oldest driver on the grid and is turning 39 July 13. While engines and chassis seem to be of the plenty, funding is hard to come by and finding a team to step up and field another car will not be easy. Piecing together one-offs through the rest of 2013 may be the only option for Serviá.

Dreyer & Reinbold has been as much of a fixture on the grid as any team in IndyCar over the last 15 years. The lights have gone out on Newman-Haas, Hemelgarn, Walker, Forsythe, HVM and Conquest since reunification in 2008. However, Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan was part-time for the better part of three seasons and are back full-time. Vision Racing died but Ed Carpenter Racing is almost a second reincarnation. There is a chance D&R can cut back for a few seasons and come back full-time but the odds are not necessarily in their favor of that.

If this is it, it would be a loss of a great team through the years and another tough blow to Oriol Serviá. Dreyer & Reinbold and Serivá mind as well go out like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids: Giving it all, guns blazing against the armed platoon that is IndyCar.