Dennis Reinbold’s earliest memories of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now nearly a half-century old, made a lasting impression.
“I remember coming here in 1969. My dad brought me, and the first car I saw, my favorite car maybe of all time, was Bobby Unser rolled out in a yellow and black checkered Bardahl car,” said Reinbold, who was 8 at the time.
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“I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
Ever since 2000, Reinbold’s involvement with the race has been much more hands-on.
The 1979 Cascade High School graduate is owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, an integral element of the Indianapolis 500 experience through the efforts of 21 different drivers.
In all, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has collected four top-10 finishes at Indianapolis. The most recent is Sage Karam’s ninth-place showing, after starting 31st, in 2014.
Karam crashed on Lap 1 last May but returns for Sunday’s century celebration determined to redeem himself. He’ll start in the middle of Row 8 after posting a qualifying speed of 226.436 mph.
Despite being the field’s youngest driver for a third consecutive Indianapolis 500, Karam, 21, said he understands the importance of being part of a quality racing team.
“The Dreyer & Reinbold name has been at IMS for decades. They keep coming here every year, and it’s just an amazing family tradition they have,” Karam said. “To be part of their stable is an honor, to be honest.
“Everyone is really, really pumped up and ready to go.”
Including the man running the show.
If the sight of Unser’s checkered car was Point A of Reinbold’s passion for all things Indianapolis 500; attempting to get Karam into Victory Lane is his Point B.
Pop’s influence lives on
In racing circles, Floyd Dreyer was known simply as “Pop.”Before passing away at the age of 90 in 1989, Dreyer had been a respected builder of midget cars, sprint cars and early Indy-style racecars.
Dreyer handed his dedication to motorsports down to Reinbold, his grandson.
“A lot of it was my grandfather because we lived right next door to him and his shop was right behind our house,” Reinbold said. “I would hang around there, sweep up and do little errands and things like that. He had all these guys that people would later say, ‘That was a driver’ or ‘That was this guy.’
“It was kind of a who’s who of motorsports that came by to see him. He had maybe 70 or 80 drivers that drove his cars through the years. A lot of them would come back and get advice from Pop.”
Reinbold laughs remembering the sign that used to hang at his grandfather’s motorcycle track in Mount Meridian (in Putnam County).
Its message needed no explanation: “If all else fails, ask Pop.”
“He just knew a lot of ways to fix things and how to make things better. A very ingenuitive guy,” Reinbold said.
Consumate team player
Since 1992, Reinbold has presided over Dreyer & Reinbold, Inc., which includes the Dreyer & Reinbold Volkswagen dealership in Greenwood.He founded Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 1999.
“I was always very interested in the Indy 500, specifically, and IndyCar in general. When Infinity got involved in the early days of the IRL (Indy Racing League), as an Infinity dealer I was on their dealer advisory board at the time,” Reinbold said. “I knew about their plans and what they were doing.
“I told the head guy at the time, Steve Kite, that I was interested in getting a motor, trying to come up with some money. He gave me a motor, and I did come up with some money.”
In 2000, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s initial taste of May, drivers Steve Knapp and Robbie Buhl placed 19th and 26th, respectively, in what was the 84th running of the 500.
Reinbold’s racing team has produced one fourth-place finish (Oriol Servia in 2012) to go along with one seventh (Justin Wilson in 2010), an eighth (Buddy Rice in 2008) and Karam’s ninth-place performance in 2014.
Three former Indianapolis 500 champions at one point raced for Dreyer & Reinbold: Al Unser Jr. in 2006, Buddy Lazier in 2004 and 2006, and Buddy Rice in 2007 and 2008.
Reinbold remains consistent with his business approach, whether it’s an automobile dealership or racing team bearing his surname.
“You want all the people involved to be motivated. To be interested in the end goal, whether it’s the dealerships where we want to take care of our customers and our employees and try to grow in that manner,” Reinbold said. “It’s the same with an IndyCar.
“It’s very much a team network. You want to surround yourself with the best possible people you can get. We haven’t had a lot of turnover, and a lot of teams do because it’s such a cyclical business.”
Team manager Chase Selman, who is only 30, already is in his 14th year with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Selman started while still a student at Zionsville High School and isn’t looking for a career change.
“It’s awesome,” said Selman, whose wife, Brooke, is the younger sister of former IndyCar driver Danica Patrick. “It all starts with the big man, Dennis. He is one of the owners that everyone wants to work for.
“He’s a great guy. He’s loyal to his employees. He’s got a passion for this sport, as we all do. Just somebody that everyone wants to be around.”
THE REINBOLD FILE
Name: Dennis Reinbold
Family: Wife, Jennifer; sons, Derek and Graham
High school: Cascade (1979)
College: University of Indianapolis (1983)
Did you know? Reinbold pitched for the University of Indianapolis baseball program while in school there from 1979-83.