[Source: Panther Racing press release]
Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced today it has formed a strategic alliance with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing on Oriol Servia’s entry for the remainder of the 2012 IndyCar Series season. The No. 22 Panther/DRR team will utilize Panther’s second Chevrolet engine lease and work in conjunction with the No. 4 National Guard team and driver JR Hildebrand beginning with this month’s 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
“We’ve wanted to operate as a two-car team for some time now, but the right opportunity had never arisen to allow us to accomplish that,” Panther Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. “But as soon as we had the opportunity to work with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Oriol Servia – a guy I consider one of the best all-around drivers in IndyCar – this was a no-brainer for us. Dennis (Reinbold) and I have been friends for a long time, and they’ve got a great group of guys on their team that we’re very excited to be working with. I know we’re all looking forward to working under the same roof and expanding upon what we’ve both built all these years in the IndyCar Series.”
The two long-time IndyCar Series teams shared a technical partnership at the end of the 2011 season and, effective immediately, will expand that effort under the same roof at Panther’s headquarters in Indianapolis.
“This is an unbelievably exciting prospect for us,” Dreyer & Reinbold Racing co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. “The timing of aligning with Panther and putting this deal together is exceptional, especially knowing Panther’s history at the Indianapolis 500. We’re really looking forward to working together and taking advantage of the expertise that both teams share as we bring all our efforts together and move forward as a two-car team. We gave JR (Hildebrand) his start in IndyCar racing, so we’ll always have a soft spot in our hearts for him and to pair JR alongside Oriol will allow them to feed off each other and continue to get better throughout the year. We’ve always enjoyed our associations with Panther in the past and we’re looking forward to a bright future together.”
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing co-owner Robbie Buhl, who as a driver earned the team a victory at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000, echoed Reinbold’s sentiments.
“All of us are unbelievably excited about this. We had a technical partnership with Panther last year and this effectively is taking that to the next level,” Buhl explained. “We all feel very confident knowing that all the personalities involved can work so well together and take both our teams to the next level. From Oriol’s standpoint I know he’s excited about working with both Hildebrand and the entire technical team that Panther has in place. The exchange of knowledge between two drivers of their caliber is only going to drive those guys and that’s the fun part in challenging all of us to get better.”
Servia, the former Champ Car World Series race winner, finished fourth in the IndyCar Series championship last season with Newman/Haas with 11 Top Ten finishes and runner-up finishes in New Hampshire and Baltimore. In 2005 with Newman/Hass Servia finished runner-up in the championship, including a victory in Montreal and seven podium finishes while filling in for an injured Bruno Junquiera.
“This is the best of both worlds – I’m already with a great team, a great crew and great owners at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and affiliating with Panther is perfect because I’ve sat down with John Barnes many, many times to try and put a program together and we’ve never been able to do it for one reason or another,” Servia explained. “I’m also looking forward to joining the Chevy family; they’ve been performing so well and shown an unbelievable commitment to win. Panther has such a great record at Indianapolis and being a two-car team will only make us all stronger. JR did such a great job there last year as a rookie and he’s already doing so much better this year. He’s a great kid. I really like him and I’m sure we’re going to make a great team.”
The union also puts Servia behind the wheel of a Chevrolet-powered IndyCar for the first time in his career. General Motors has powered all of Panther’s 15 career IndyCar Series race victories and both its championships in 2001 and 2002.
“We support the addition of a second Chevrolet IndyCar V-8 powered car to the Panther Racing team for the balance of the 2012 season,” Chevrolet Racing IndyCar Program Manager Chris Berube said. “Oriol Servia will be a welcome addition to the Chevy IndyCar family and further expand the depth of talent we are fortunate to have campaigning the legendary Bowtie.”
Hildebrand, the 24-year-old Californian, earned a runner-up finish and Rookie of the Year honors in last year’s Indianapolis 500 and is especially excited about reuniting with his old team and being able to work with a teammate of Servia’s caliber on a full-time basis. He made two starts for Dreyer & Reinbold in 2010 as a replacement for a then-injured Mike Conway before landing the full-time National Guard ride with Panther in 2011.
“I’m really excited to work alongside Oriol, he’s one of those guys I’d put on my top three list of drivers I’d like to have as teammates,” JR said. “Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has some good people over there and after making my IndyCar debut with them I know how great an addition this will be to what we’ve got going at Panther. It’s great to be joining forces with those guys and this is the next step towards being a contender at the front of the IndyCar field on a consistent basis. This is going to be nothing but a huge gain for all of us.”
The two teammates also share a unique engineering background; Servia graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Hildebrand was accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the same field before having his acceptance deferred to pursue his racing career.
Hildebrand is currently tied for seventh in the IndyCar Series point standings and has collected one Top Five and two Top Ten finishes in his four starts this season. The National Guard team’s seventh-place position in the championship is as high as it’s ranked going into the Indianapolis 500 since 2002, when the team entered May as the points leader. Servia is currently 17th in the standings coming off an 11th-place finish in Brazil and the Spaniard qualified on the front row in the Indianapolis 500 last year.