As the month of May concluded at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series competitors sets their sights on the streets of Belle Isle (Mich.), for Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
One team that isn’t present at Belle Isle is Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Fielding Chevrolets for Sage Karam and Santino Ferrucci at Indy, the Indianapolis-based team may have had its best showing during The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
“I think this was our strongest year together. I think they saw that. I saw that. I think a lot of people saw that,” said Karam, driver of the No. 24 car. “I think having Santino as a teammate was really beneficial, I think me and him worked outstanding together. I think we really pushed each other. We took the program to the next level and really leaned on each other. I think it was a really good month for the entire team.”
After finishing seventh in last year’s Indy 500, Karam was lurking around the top 10 toward the end of the race. Unfortunately, it all unraveled in the blink of an eye.
On the final restart with two laps to go, Karam got caught in the outside groove when a stack up off of turn two jumbled part of the pack.
“I kind of got on the wrong part of the receiving end of that,” Karam said. “Then I had Josef (Newgarden) have a good run on me going to three. And then that kind of checked me up, having to let Joesf go by. I just never could get into a rhythm those two laps and I just was kind of always trying to get back into the normal line, and I always had somebody lunging me or something.
“And then, on the last lap, I thought I was good and just probably cruise to a 15th place or something like that, I don’t know what it was going to be. (David) Malukas kind of did a late lunge into turn two and I just had nowhere to go. I don’t know if we made slight contact or not, but just really a tough spot to be in. Car wiggled and saved it once and then wiggled again and saved it twice, but unfortunately just ran out of room.”
Karam’s No. 24 Chevrolet slid to a rest in the infield grass, ending his day in 23rd.
“I think there was a good opportunity for both cars to finish inside the top 10,” Karam said. “It just didn’t happen that day. I think if we would’ve finished 15th, I don’t think we would’ve been happy with that. I was giving it everything I could to try and get it inside that top-10 range.”
Ferrucci, who started 15th, worked his way into the top 10 with ease, before hanging around the top six for the majority of the afternoon.
The 2019 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year made his presence felt among the elite teams in the IndyCar Series, with his daring restarts and aggressive strategy.
“It was really good. We ran out front, all day long,” Ferrucci said. “I definitely had the car to win, and then the last stint, something with the tires, with the heat, we just kind of missed it a little bit. Nothing, honestly, that we could do. The team did a great job all day.”
Though Ferrucci wound up fading to 10th late in the race, the driver of the No. 23 Chevrolet saw massive positives with the result.
“We were able to pass in the pack,” Ferrucci said. “We just still had to be patient, we still had to wait for the drivers to make little errors, in order to be there. We had really consistent race cars. Where you saw a lot of people crashing off of two, I never really felt loose. I never really felt any insecurities all day long. I felt like, especially at the start of the race, I definitely thought we had the best car on track. We were really comfortable, which allows us to really focus on ourselves.”
As the two drivers reflected on the month of May, the most important aspect that stuck out to them, was the energy that the more than 300,000 fans brought to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time in nearly three years.
“After having no fans there, you never want to experience that again at the speedway,” Karam said. “It just made you appreciate what the fans do for the event. When we showed up race day morning this year, you just see the line of traffic to get into the speedway and just the amount of people rolling in, you just got chills and goosebumps when you came into the track that morning. That’s what makes Indy. Indy is the fans.”
Ferrucci, who’s only competed in one full-capacity Indianapolis 500 (2019), soaked up the atmosphere all month long.
“Honestly, it was fantastic,” Ferrucci said. “The last two 500s I’d been in, one had no fans, one had 130,000. When they did that, it was impressive. This one really takes me back to 2019, my rookie year. It happened so fast because it was so new to me that I didn’t really get a chance to take it in. This year I was able to really enjoy myself and spend time with fans and see exactly how many people are out there. It was impressive. It’s an unreal event.”
Karam, believes the rising trajectory of not only the Indy 500, but IndyCar racing, showed during the month of May.
“I think it shows where the sport is going,” Karam said. “To have the biggest attended Indy 500 in 20-plus years other than the 100th, I think it says a lot about the direction IndyCar’s headed, where the Indy 500 is headed, and the product that IndyCar racing is showing right now.”
With the curtain closed on another Indianapolis 500, the future for 27-year-old Karam is a bit of a mystery.
Karam is set to compete a partial schedule in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Alpha Prime Racing, but no races have officially been announced.
“I really don’t have an answer of where my career is going to go as far as full-time racing is concerned, and what that looks like in a year, two years, three years,” Karam said. “In the short term, I’ll be doing some NASCAR Xfinity racing. I would really love to go try the rally stuff again later this year with Dreyer & Reinbold with the new nitro series. Those new electric super cars that they got going on there look really, really cool. I’d really love to maybe try a race or two in that. As far as IndyCar stuff, I doubt there’s opportunity for me to go do anymore IndyCar races this year. It’s more or less just doing other things and hopefully working on getting next year figured out.
“Obviously, I want to be back at the speedway. I want to be back for the Indy 500. That’s one of my top priorities right now, is to figure out how to do that again for next year.”
Ferrucci was tabbed to be the driver for Juncos Hollinger Racing this weekend in Detroit, with Callum Ilott nursing a broken hand.
“Although I am happy to be back in the car, it’s unfortunate for Callum under the circumstances,” said Ferrucci. “I hope his hand heals really quickly and he is back on track soon. I’m just here to help with the team and see if we can get them a really good result and bring in some different knowledge from my experience in Detroit.”
Only time will tell what the Dreyer & Reinbold lineup will look like for the 107th Indianapolis 500.
However, what both Karam and Ferrucci know, is the dedication that Dreyer & Reinbold Racing puts into competing in the Indianapolis 500.
“Going forward, Dennis (Reinbold), his biggest goal in life and racing is for one of his cars to win the Indianapolis 500,” Karam said. “Knowing Dennis and having raced for him for 8 years, he’s not going to do anything unless it’s 100%. He’s not going to do anything that takes away from the ability to win the Indianapolis 500.”