Buddy Rice makes the move to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2007, teaming up with Sarah Fisher. The 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion (Rice) is partnered with the Indy Racing League's perennial "Most Popular Driver" (Fisher). Rice sees the team...
Buddy Rice makes the move to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2007, teaming up with Sarah Fisher. The 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion (Rice) is partnered with the Indy Racing League's perennial "Most Popular Driver" (Fisher). Rice sees the team competing successfully in the new year with new engineers, new drivers and new enthusiasm.
After a successful three-year run with Rahal/Letterman Racing, Buddy Rice was released from his contract a year early at the end of the 2006 season to find his fortune elsewhere.
The 31-year old Phoenix native dabbled with a ride in CART but soon found himself back in Indianapolis and talking with old friends from the track about joining an existing IRL team that was hiring new blood: Dreyer & Reinbold.
"It's extremely exciting with the engineers John Dick (Rice's car) and Chris Finch (Fisher) coming over from the Fernandez team. Obviously Dreyer & Reinbold has been trying to make some big moves to make themselves a better, stronger team," he said.
In addition to new personnel, the team has increased its in-house resources by adding gearbox and shock departments - programs that were outsourced in the past.
"Teaming up with Sarah, I think we're going to run quite well I think this year-a lot better than people think."
"There's no reason why we can't run inside the top 10," he concluded.
For Fisher the reunion with Dreyer & Reinbold is a welcome return to her roots in open-wheel racing after a year in NASCAR's Grand National West developmental league. She has fifty starts under her belt over her IRL career, half of them with D&R.
She shares Rice's enthusiasm that there are better times ahead for the drivers and the team, one of the IRL's smallest.
"I can only echo what Buddy said about the leaps and bounds D&R have taken in the off-season. The cars we have are the nicest cars that have ever rolled out of that shop."
"Having Buddy as a teammate is going to be awesome. We've already worked together really well. He's a great driver and has great feedback," she said.
For Rice there's a process of adapting to the language and habits of a completely new crew. Obviously the cars are a little bit different too.
Rice mainly ran in the Panoz chassis until late last season when the Rahal/Letterman Team switched to the popular Dallara chassis.
"When there's a lot of continuity, when you've been with someone for a long time, just by the tone of your voice they can tell how much or how bad the car is either way, and what they need to do to fix it," he said.
"When you're working with somebody new, they don't understand that. It takes a little bit of time to get familiarized with it," he explained.
Rice's expectations of the coming season are tempered by the competition he sees around him on the track.
"The four red cars with Penske and Ganassi, they're clearly the class of the field right now, as they were last year. But there's some teams that are definitely creeping up," he said.
Buddy figures the law of averages have to come into play eventually. "Those cars can't keep making the advances by leaps and bounds that they have in the last couple years. They're going to plateau to some degree," he said.
"Granted, they're going to still make some improvements. They're a bunch of very smart and talented people over there. But there's no reason some of the rest of us can't make jumps as well to get closer to them," he added.
"We definitely have a shot of running really close to the top five, and we should be able to get up there and be competitive and not have to constantly be pitted towards the back, not have some of the good pit selection," he said.
"We expect to be much more competitive this year," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "We have devoted the off-season toward overall improvement and expansion in order to meet this goal. We are very excited to get started. I think that we are ready."
"With the changes and additions we've made internally to grow Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, we are in as good as a position to consistently be in the hunt at a lot of events," team co-owner Robbie Buhl said.
"Part of this change is our growth and evolution as a team. We have hired key manpower and this shows the commitment we are willing to put forth race in and race out."