(Originally posted by Paul to Planet-IRL.com.)
Justin Wilson, the lanky lad from Sheffield, England, was announced today as the driver of the #22 Z-Line Designs machine for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, departing Dale Coyne Racing after scoring that team’s first ever victory at Watkins Glen last season.
While some people might see this move as lateral at best, I think it is a perfect fit, especially when partnered with Mike Conway. There’s no doubt that Justin Wilson has been fast from the first moment he stepped foot on American soil. Actually, he’s been fast for much longer than that, but since he came to the United States in 2004, J-Dub has refused to take a back seat to the competition, no matter what ride he had. With a pair of victories in his first two years of racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series (2008 at Detroit while racing for Newman-Haas-Lanigan and the aforementioned victory last year at Watkins Glen), Justin has proven that he is one of the top drivers in the Series on the road and street circuits, and his presence at Dreyer & Reinbold will instantly make that team a competitor on at least the nine road and street courses this year. Mike Conway has also shown to be fast and, when he finishes, is very capable of attaining great results (as evidenced by a strong third-place finish at Infineon last year).
Where D&R will likely continue to struggle is on the ovals. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough money and resources available to close the gap to the Penske and Ganassi teams, and losing a very talented oval driver like Tomas Scheckter will hurt the team in that aspect.
Dreyer & Reinbold has a great group of mechanics and engineers working on their cars, led of course by former Menard and Vision Racing chief Larry Curry. What has been missing from the team is the one full-time, experienced driver that can really drive the hell out of the car, bring it home in one piece, and provide invaluable feedback to the engineers. Justin Wilson fits that role perfectly and, perhaps more importantly, will be a fantastic mentor for the younger, less experienced Mike Conway. I fully expect the duo to perform very strong on the road and street courses and would actually be surprised if they don’t pick up a handful of podium finishes this year. I’ll go one step further and say I will not be the least bit surprised if Dreyer & Reinbold picks up the team’s first victory since Robbie Buhl kicked off the 2000 campaign with a win at Walt Disney World Speedway.
Congrats to the good folks at D&R for putting together this excellent pair of drivers and striving to improve their on-track performance in 2010. The fact that they have been able to retain a large core of sponsors over the past several years, including Dad’s Root Beer, Roll Coater, TranSystems, Valspar, and many others, speaks volumes about the work that team does to connect the sponsors to the team and to the fans.