IRL: Buhl hangs up his helmet

IRL: Buhl hangs up his helmet

One of the most consistently competitive drivers in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series announced today that he is stepping away from the cockpit to take a more active role in the ownership of his team. Robbie Buhl. Photo by ...

One of the most consistently competitive drivers in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series announced today that he is stepping away from the cockpit to take a more active role in the ownership of his team.

Robbie Buhl.
Photo by indyracing.com/Ron McQueeney.
One of three current owner-drivers in the IRL's top series, Robbie Buhl declared he is leaving competition after a stellar 21-year career.

Buhl, who has run in eight Indianapolis 500 Mile Races and holds a best finish of sixth in 1999 decided to make his move prior to the open test next week and well before practice begins on May 9th, thereby enabling his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (DRR) team to find a new driver for the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone entry.

After discussing his intent with the team yesterday and talking with Tony George, owner of the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Buhl made his decision known to the world. "I didn't think it would be quite yet," he reflected. "I thought I had a couple of years left, but the last couple of years just weren't what I wanted" from the sport Robbie said.

In 2002 he suffered eight Infiniti engine failures and, joining with Chevrolet last season, Buhl and Dreyer & Reinbold experienced difficulties dealing with the moribund Gen III Chevy Indy V8. Toward the end of the 2003 campaign, one could see the sparkle back in Buhl's eyes. "Last year didn't help much," Buhl noted with irony.

"At Homestead [in February], we were in the game but we struggled the last two races," Robbie admitted. "I've been throwing hints to Dennis (co-owner Reinbold) and, once I thought about the scenario, it all made sense to take on a different role in the team."

Robbie Buhl has truly had an exceptional 21-year professional racing career. He earned the 1989 Barber Dodge Pro Series championship with a record seven victories and six poles. Buhl's 1992 Indy Lights title came as he accumulated 27 podiums - 11 straight in 1992 alone - in only 50 starts, a record never topped.

After that successful season, Robbie Buhl moved to the CART Champ Car series and also attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He co-drove to victory in the GT class at the Rolex 24 Hours in a Jack Roush Mustang.

Buhl joined the Indy Racing League in its infancy and finished third in the 1996 inaugural season. He would go on to compete in 78 races over the League's history, earning his first victory at New Hampshire in 1997.

Before he joined Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Buhl worked with Greg Beck, John Menard and A.J. Foyt, but the decision to be part of the DRR family definitely kicked Robbie's success up a notch. He finished sixth at the Brickyard in his first drive for A.J. Foyt in the 1999 Indy 500 and earned his second career IndyCar Series victory at Walt Disney World in 2000.

The team went with Infiniti power later that year and Buhl secured some of the brand's best finishes, three top-fives including third at Pikes Peak. The difficulties in 2002 likely hastened Buhl's retirement decision, including the accident in qualifying that forced Buhl to sit out both that California Speedway round and the race at Nazareth, PA. The only 2002 highlight was a second-place start at Indy, but he finished 16th, two laps down.

"I definitely have some mixed emotions," Buhl mused after talking about his choice to leave the driving to someone else. "But I feel it's the right time for me and it's a good thing for this team. We can set the tone starting at Indy and push along through the season," Buhl said. "I'm not going to be a passive bystander, you know."

Robbie Buhl has never been a passive bystander in life or in motorsports. He's a man who understands building relationships and giving back to those less fortunate than himself.

Buhl intends to continue his exemplary spokesman work with Racing for Kids, a group he has nurtured for 15 years, going with other drivers to hospitals worldwide to cheer more than 14,000 sick children and, in return, add some semblance of reality to the job of being a race car driver.

Robbie Buhl.
Photo by Hiroshi Yamamura.
"I'm still going to be in the business I love, but that's not to say there won't be a day of testing when I might get in the car," he stressed. "At this level you have to be 110% committed day in and day out. I'm going to be where I can be helpful and use my coaching skills, offering what I can to be conduit" of knowledge to DRR's next driver.

"I'm going to be another body outside the car who can make this team better. We are going to continue to grow," Buhl declared. "We'd love to be a two-car team with the right scenario and now I can spend more active time on that." Buhl was the first driver coach for Skip Barber's Dodge Pro Series after leaving competition there; he is looking forward to a similar role with his own team in the near future.

Unwilling to say that he's happy about the decision to step away from the cockpit, Buhl is, nonetheless excited to have made the choice. "I'm sure there will be periods in the day that I'll wish I were still in the car but I can't second guess this decision. I'm nervous about the new challenges and I'm excited. I'm not about to let grass grow."

Partner Dennis Reinbold would expect nothing less. "His energy and enthusiasm are going to be newly focused on a broader perspective. I have every confidence that his experiences will constructively contribute to the success of our new driver and that our team will prosper and grow under his fulltime efforts on the business side," Reinbold said.

Despite other business interests that have tugged at Buhl over the past few years, he has no intent of leaving this sport, nor does his family of wife Becky, children Carly and Quinn. "I talked to Tony George today and told him I plan to be around another 20 years as part of this series. I'll be keeping in touch from that perspective."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Skip Barber , Tony George , A.J. Foyt
Teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing