DRR duo the story of the day during Thursday’s Indy 500 open test

INDIANAPOLIS — The bigger teams may still win next month’s 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. However, Meyer Shank Racing just two years ago showed that the little guy can still compete and get the job done with the right amount of hardwork and skill.

Maybe this year’s Cinderella and glass slipper will fit the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing camp.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has been competing in the famed 500-mile event since 2000 and qualified 45 cars over its course of competition. They’ve been phenomenal at Indy lately too which could make Ryan Hunter-Reay and teammate Stefan Wilson darkhorses when we come back for real next month. Sage Karam finished 7th in 2021 while Santino Ferrucci was 10th a year ago in the 2nd entry.

On Thursday, they were 2-3 in the refresher session and sixth (Wilson) and 14th (Hunter-Reay) on the Day 1 overall speed chart.

“Really good day for us,” Wilson said. “To get through the pressure and I think I did 140 laps today, I did a lot more than I thought we were going to get done today with how windy we expected it to be, how windy it got.

“Yeah, really positive start. It’s nice to be in a positive window. The car’s in a decent window right now. I think we need to refine it, but we’re not throwing the kitchen sink at it. That’s good place to be.”

Instead of using a part-time team as a detriment, they’re making it an advantage.

By being an Indy only operation, it allows them the luxury of preparing for just one race, on one discipline of tracks and can throw all their eggs in one basket. It clearly worked in 2022. It can work in 2023.

“We feel like we have as good a shot as anyone. We specialize in the 500,” says Reinbold. “We don’t specialize on those other tracks. We specialize at the Indy 500. We’re confident in our ability to get out there and prepare and do what it takes to be in the mix.

“We were in the mix last year, fortunately, with Santino and Sage as well running in the top five to six cars with Santino and around the 12th place car for much of the race last year.

“So we know what it takes and the preparation, dedication, offseason testing to get to that level, and it’s not inconsequential. There’s a lot that goes into it. You have to have the driver that can deliver on that once you get in that position. We feel good about it.

“So I’m just excited about going into the month of May and starting our testing. And we’ve already started our testing, but continuing our testing. And it’s like the old saying, is it May yet? We’re ready to go.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during Thursday’s Indy 500 open test. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Hunter-Reay will be attempting to make his 15th start in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and doing so in the No. 23 Dallara-Honda. “Captain America” is a former Indy 500 champion (2014) as well as a season champion (2012) too. The 18-time NTT INDYCAR Series winner didn’t race last year with his final start in the Indy 500 coming in 2021 to where he finished 22nd. Prior to that though, the Florida native had 5 top 10 finishes in an 8 year span which includes his 2014 triumph as well as a third place finish in 2013 and fifth in 2018. He was also 8th in 2019 and 10th in 2020 too.

This will mark the fifth different team that Hunter-Reay has driven at Indy for. He ran with RLL in his first start here in 2008. A year later, he was with Vision Racing. He then raced for Andretti Autosport in 11 of the remaining 12 tries. The lone time he didn’t was in 2011 when he missed the show but later hopped into AJ Foyt Racing’s qualified car to which he finished 23rd.

Now, he’s with DRR for which this being his first time back with Chevrolet power since the two years that Andretti was with them in 2012 and 2013.

“It was great,” Hunter-Reay said of his Thursday. “The first proper run out, felt like a kid going down a ramp, that feeling of just pure excitement. It was great. I absolutely couldn’t wait to do it.

“But, no, it’s great. Like Stef said, the team has done a great job preparing these cars. Really happy to be joining Team Chevy again. We have a lot of great history together not only the sports car side with GM, Cadillac and everything, but winning a championship together back in 2012. I have a lot of good friends there. Look forward to working with them. It’s something that I’m definitely going to take the time and the most of.

“Working with the team, it’s been excellent. Today we were going through some pretty big-ticket stuff, big-ticket items with the wind and everything. With the starting that refresher deal was really strange, I didn’t like that part. Wanted to get through that as fast as possible. Like eating your vegetables as a kid. Not fun, but got through it fast. Yeah, after that, I had a blast.”

Wilson had a little over two weeks prepare for last year’s Indianapolis 500. He’s had six months this time around.

“I’ve been very impressed with how hard Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has worked at and focused on the Indy 500,” said Wilson. “It’s such an honor for me to join them in partnership with Cusick Motorsports and work on our collective goal of trying to win the Indy 500. There’s a great opportunity here for us to all grow together. I hope this leads to more 500’s, and maybe even more races together.”

As far as what led DRR, Cusick and Wilson together?

“We had always hoped we could get a relationship with someone like DRR,” Cusick says. “They were number one on our list of potential partners for 2023. Anders and Stefan did the majority of the legwork and put together proposal and sent it out and had the conversations that needed to be had.

“I didn’t actually talk to Dennis until after the deal was signed. I had an opportunity to get on the phone with him several times and talk it all through.

“For me the faith that the entire DRR team put in Stefan and the way they talked and treated him was super heartwarming. I mean, it’s probably an overused analogy, but they made us feel like we’re part of the family. That’s pretty unique, especially in what we’re doing.

“Yeah, that’s been great. Like I said, my analogy is kind of like we’ve been dating for a little while now, and now we’re going to go to the next step. I feel really, really good about it, and I really like those guys, and I think we’re going to make some good things happen and surprise a few people in the process.”

Dennis Reinbold, like Cusick, just gushed over Wilson as far as what impressed him the most to get this dialogue going.

“We’ve talked to Stefan before, and I really appreciate his persistence and his hunger,” he said. “And all the attributes you want in a driver he comes with. He is ready and excited to get going more so than — his excitement level really is contagious.

“And so him really, as well as Anders, putting Don and I together to have the conversation and then get to the point we are, it’s like, yeah, I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.

“We’ve done a lot of kind of partnerships in the past that haven’t worked out very well. There have been a lot of factors involved because of different agendas and different ideas on how to go about things.

“We’re on the same page, and that’s the only way you can do it and be successful. I feel like we’re positioning ourselves and this program to be a really good program that could continue on for sure.”

Now that they are teamed up, this could be the beginning of what most consider the best opportunity Wilson has had at winning the big race. While Wilson has appeared in the Indy 500 for a team like Andretti Autosport twice, this entry may be his best shot at winning. 

“Yes, I do,” Wilson said on if this is his best shot of winning this race. “I can’t thank Andretti enough for what they did for me in the years that I ran with them, but this time it has a little different feeling to it. I can’t thank Team Chevy enough as well. I’m excited to work with team Chevrolet again.

“As we’ve all said, this effort, there is so much focus on the 24 car and from internally and the team that it feels like we’re all pulling in the same direction, and we’ve got a lot of runway to plan and get prepared for May.

“So, yeah, I’m really excited. What they showed last year, and the previous year, really, the race cars they have, the race setup, is really strong, and their qualifying form this year was really strong as well.

“So with all that stuff we’re working on in the offseason, we’re only going to make that better. Yeah, I think, like I said before, this team really needs to get a lot more credit for what they’ve achieved in the last couple of years.”

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Stefan Wilson also have a family tie together as Wilson’s late brother, Justin, drove as a full-time entry for the team in the 2010 and 2011 seasons in the IndyCar Series. 

The elder Wilson had 12 top 10 finishes in 28 starts with DRR including a pair of runner-up finishes at that. One of those 12 top 10’s was a 7th place run in the 2010 Indy 500.

“There’s history here with this team,” Stefan Wilson continued. Justin [Wilson, Stefan’s late older brother] spent two years with DRR back in 2010-2011 and secured podiums. I got to know Dennis (Reinbold), Brett De Bord and Chase Selman really well back then, so it just feels great to be rejoining them in a sense. I also have to say a big thank you to Don Cusick, who has put more faith in me than anybody else in my career. I’m honored to represent Cusick Motorsports and all our partners and will do my utmost to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”

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