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Money Woes To Force Panther DRR To Cut IndyCar Season Short

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 2 2013

The 2013 IZOD IndyCar season apparently will end after the Indy 500 for the venerable Panther DRR team.

One of open-wheel racing’s longest-tenured organizations is planning to hit the pause button because of economics.

Panther DRR – formerly Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – announced Wednesday it will scale back its participation in the IZOD IndyCar Series following the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

Panther DRR announced it is committed to competing in this weekend’s Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 Nestlé and the Indianapolis 500. However, team co-owners Dennis Reinbold and Robbie Buhl currently do not have plans to enter Oriol Servia and the No. 22 Dallara/Chevrolet in the remainder of the 2013 season’s events.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will retain a core group of employees at its Carmel, Ind., headquarters following the Indy 500. According to a statement, the team currently is “developing a strategy to compete in one or more motorsports series in the immediate future and take advantage of new opportunities in the racing and automotive world.” Furthermore, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has plans to field at least one entry in the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

“We have a long history at the Indianapolis 500 and that is our main focus right now,” said Reinbold, an Indianapolis native who oversees his family’s network of automotive dealerships in Central Indiana.

Buhl’s IndyCar Series career featured two wins in 78 starts and 30-top 10 finishes before his retirement in 2004. Buhl joined DRR as an equity partner in addition to driver in 2000.

“We have to thank our great network of partners that have supported us and we want to continue to perform at our highest level for them,” said Buhl, who also shared a sports car victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1993. “We’ll be working hard to bring in additional sponsors as we rebuild after Indy this year and look to next season.”

The team began the 2012 season as Lotus DRR, an ill-fated partnership with the engine supplier in its return to domestic open-wheel racing. Prior to the 2012 Indy 500, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entered a strategic alliance with Indianapolis-based Panther Racing and an ownership group led by John Barnes.

“We have a great technical partnership with Panther Racing and we look forward to continuing that through the Indy 500,” Reinbold said. “We wish the No. 4 National Guard car, Panther Racing and JR Hildebrand all the best in the second half of their season. Our decision will not impact Panther Racing’s operations in any way.”

The 2013 season marks the 14th year of fulltime competition for Panther DRR, making it one of the longest-tenured teams in INDYCAR. Reinbold and Buhl won the first race they competed in at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January 2000, with Buhl behind the wheel. The team now has over 300 race starts in the IndyCar Series and successfully has qualified 32 cars for the Indy 500.

Reinbold’s grandfather, “Pop” Dreyer, is recognized as an open-wheel racing pioneer. After managing Duesenberg’s factory racing efforts, Dreyer became a successful builder of Midget, Sprint and Indy-style cars, including the front-engine Roadsters that dominated at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s.

The team’s driver roster over the years has included Ana Beatriz, Ryan Briscoe, Jeff Bucknum, Mike Conway, Felipe Giaffone, Buddy Lazier, Graham Rahal, Tomas Scheckter, Justin Wilson and Roger Yasukawa. In 2007, the team expanded to a two-car effort with Sarah Fisher and 2004 Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice. Fisher scored the team’s first IndyCar Series pole at Kentucky Speedway in 2002 in historic fashion, becoming the first woman in North American motorsports to qualify No. 1.

Servia and Panther DRR will return to Sao Paulo, Brazil, this weekend after a sixth-place finish on the Streets of Long Beach two weeks ago.

While driving for DRR in 2002, Buhl qualified in the middle of the three-car front row for the Indy 500. Servia finished fourth last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a career-best for the Spaniard and the team. Servia placed 13th in the point standings in 2012 after four top-five and five top-10 results.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 2 2013
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