DREYER - Indy 500 Notes



Speed was there with both cars, but couldn’t get their lap back Sunday


SPEEDWAY, Ind. (May 26, 2019) – The game plan didn’t work out for the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing drivers Sage Karam and J.R. Hildebrand Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when they needed just a little of luck to turn in an impressive performance in the 103rd Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

The DRR team, having the longest Indy 500 legacy dating back to 1927 at IMS, had shown the speed with its Chevrolet-powered Dallara race cars in race trim. In fact, Karam and Hildebrand felt confident entering Sunday’s 200-lap Classic at the famed 2.5-mile oval after solid performance in Monday’s practice and Friday’s Carb Day runs.

And actually, both Karam and Hildebrand showed speed Sunday in the race, but luck wasn’t on their side when they needed it.

Karam, the 24-year-old Nazareth, Pa., racer who started 31st in his sixth Indy 500, finished 19th in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet Dallara and Hildebrand, the 31-year-old Boulder, Colo., who started 21st in his ninth 500, placed 20th in the No. 48 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet Dallara.

But Karam and Hildebrand’s finishes were not the story Sunday as both racers had speed to race into the top-ten in the 103rd running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Early in the race, Hildebrand drove from 21st to 13th in the first 46 laps and looked to be in position to race into the top-ten. Later in the event, Hildebrand entered the pit lane too quickly for a routine stop and was penalized with a “drive-through” penalty, forcing the former Indy Lights champion to go a lap down to leader Simon Pagenaud. 

For Karam, he also went a lap down on the 44th circuit as he attempted to work his way up the charts from his last row starting position. Sage actually raced with Pagenaud and the other leaders for several laps and clocked similar speeds with the front runners. The 2013 Indy Lights titleholder was not able to get the lap back during the remainder of the 200-lapper.

Often at Indy, the lapped cars can return to the lead lap with caution periods as the leaders dashing into the pit lane for fuel and tires. For both Karam and Hildebrand, neither received that break they needed and completed 199 laps of the 200 in the 103rd Indy 500.

“Finishing 19th and the sister car with JR took 20th, said Karam “Obviously, we want better than that. Some tough luck hurt us today. Unfortunately, we dug ourselves in a hole early. Our car was pretty fast, but I couldn’t get around the slower traffic. It is hard to pass with these cars when it gets hotter. So, we lost a lap in the pit cycles and came out with Simon (Pagenaud), the leader. We ran with the leaders and the WIX Filters car was fast in race trim. But getting the lap behind really hurt us. Then we pitted a lap before the big wreck in turn three and we didn’t get the lap back. With a little luck in a couple of spots today, I think we had a top ten car.

“Overall, it was a rough month for us and we did take the checkered flag this time. Again, the DRR pit crew did an amazing job with our pit stops.  I thought I did good job on the track and keeping my nose clean. We just didn’t get the breaks at the proper time today. That can happen here. It’s a legendary place and you have to take the good with the bad. I’m excited to come back here next year.”

Hildebrand’s Salesforce crew was quick with its pit stops Sunday and he feels badly for his pit lane entrance mishap.

“It was a longer day for us when I hit the pit lane too quick and received a drive-through penalty,” said Hildebrand. “I thought I was a gear down when I hit the pit lane. I just didn’t get the gear down quickly enough and I was speeding into the pits. So, I then locked up the rears (tires) and I slid into the pit lane. I had a good start and moved up several spots pretty quickly. We thought we needed some fast stops to make up some positions throughout the race. We had some good pit sequences with the in and out laps too. Then the drive-through penalty put us a lap down that we couldn’t get back. I had to protect the tires early in the stint and I couldn’t charge how I probably needed to.

“At the end of the race, we got the car into a window where I could maintain our position during the run. We made a number of adjustments through the race and the car did improve at the end as the track changed. I’m bummed for the guys because they did an awesome job in the pits. I think we were running with guys who were hovering in the top ten at the checkered flag. We could have been knocking on the door for the top ten had we kept everything together. So, I’m a little disappointed in myself with the penalty. We got the car back into the garage after 200 laps again.”

DRR team owner Dennis Reinbold, who has entered and qualified 41 Indy 500 cars in his 20 years as a car owner, felt his two cars were capable of top-ten finishes Sunday. But luck didn’t fall DRR’s way.

“We had two good cars today,” said Reinbold. “JR had the penalty and that’s a shame. Sage had a pretty good race car, but he had some tough traffic early and we got a lap down.  Usually, here, you can get your lap back pretty easily. But the timing just didn’t go our way today. We were getting great fuel economy and we were able to stretch our pit stops beyond the rest of the field. And that usually gives you an opportunity to get the lap back. But that chance never came. Then, we pitted Sage one lap too early when the big crash happened in turn three. That yellow was one lap too late for us. It’s rare that you don’t get the opportunity to unlap yourself here. There were a couple of the stints that Sage could run right with Pagenaud. We were matching his lap times, so I know the cars were good.  The qualifying weekend was tough for our team. And we are disappointed with 19th and 20th finishes. I just thought the timing hurt today because we had better cars.”

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Tom Beeler

Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.

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Volume 2019, Issue 5, Posted 2:39 PM, 05.27.2019