The excitement of the returning to the “World Greatest Race Track” was in the air Tuesday at the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing garage with drivers Sage Karam and J.R. Hildebrand making their initial oval practice runs for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Mile Race set May 27.
The DRR squad in the only “One-Off Race Team” at Indy this year, but the Carmel, Ind.-based operation put in a solid day of laps in the hot, humid conditions at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. This year marks the first time Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has entered two cars in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since 2011.
Karam, entering his fifth Indy 500 at age 23, drove the No. 24 WIX Filter/DRR Chevrolet to a best lap of 223.998 miles per hour for the sixth fastest speed on opening day. The Nazareth, Pa., racer recorded 60 laps on Tuesday. Karam, the former Indy Lights champion, won the “Hard Charger Award” in his rookie year of 2014 at Indy. He tested at Indy on May 1.
Hildebrand, making his eighth Indy 500 at age 30, wheeled his No. 66 Salesforce/DRR Chevrolet to a best speed of 222.256 m.p.h. for 24th overall in in a total of 55 laps Tuesday. However, the big number for the Boulder, Colo., driver was his “no tow” speed of 221.139, third overall in those clockings behind Ed Carpenter (221.512) and Charlie Kimball (221.155). The “no tow” readings are determined by the car’s performance without a draft from another car.
Hildebrand, also an Indy Lights Champion, finished runner-up in his Indy 500 rookie showing in 2011 and won the “Rookie of the Year” honors. It was J.R.’s first time in an IndyCar since last September.
“Car wasn’t too bad,” said Karam. “It has a really good balance when I ran by myself. So, we started with that and then tried to trim out and gain more speed by myself. Once I felt comfortable there, I ran with traffic. This was the first time I ran in traffic with the new car and it’s interesting. It looks like everyone is dealing with the same issue, which is the lack of front grip.
“These new cars, when you don’t have clean air, you lose a lot of front grip. That’s the battle for everyone right now is to find front grip. Overall, first day back and P6. We’re in the ballpark. Speeds or times don’t mean anything yet, but it’s good to see us high on the pylon is a good feeling. But, it’s early so hopefully we keep it up and we’ll see what happens.”
“I felt good today with the car,” said Hildebrand. “We got up to speed quickly. There are a lot of familiar faces for me here at Dreyer & Reinbold. I made my IndyCar debut with DRR back in 2010. We have a lot of the same guys I have worked with the last few years too at ECR. I felt good with how the car rolled out of the gates and it went from there.”
Cars return to the historic two-and-a-half-mile oval Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m. EDT for a scheduled seven hours of practice. Qualifying is set for Saturday (May 19) and Sunday (May 20) with the 102nd Indy 500 getting underway at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 27.