Justin Wilson is switching from Dale Coyne Racing to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season, despite turning Coyne's team into winners last season, for the first time in that organization's 24-year history.
The Briton, who has six Indy car wins to his name – two of which have come since his switch from Champ Car to IndyCar – will join compatriot Mike Conway, who goes into his sophomore ICS season in the same squad with which he shone brightly, if inconsistently, in his rookie campaign. It will be the first time in its 11 years that Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has started the season with two full-time drivers. In 2009, Conway's teammates were Tomas Scheckter and/or Milka Duno.
For Wilson, the Dennis Reinbold/Robbie Buhl-owned D&R squad will be his fourth Indy car team in as many years, having campaigned for RuSPORT in 2007, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in '08 and Dale Coyne in '09. Speaking from Daytona, where he competed for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Rolex 24, he said: “I'm very excited to be joining Dreyer & Reinbold. The deal was done really fast. It was just a short time ago that we started communicating, I went to have a look around the shop, and I was very impressed with everything they've been doing since last season.”
D&R hasn't won since its inaugural season of 2000 (right), when team co-owner Robbie Buhl climbed from 22nd on the grid at the Walt Disney World Speedway. But that's something Wilson is bullish about changing.
“I think wins are feasible, definitely,” he said. “Taking the title would be unrealistic for this year, because it takes time for everything to gel in a new team, but I believe that top six in the championship is a good target.”
Reminded that this would mean he was “best of the rest” in a year in which Penske is running three cars and Ganassi two, Wilson said, “Yeah, I know – but I meant what I said. I don't see any reason why we can't be hassling those guys on the street and road courses. Look at how well Mike went at times last year.
“To be honest, though, I'm particularly encouraged by the amount of effort the D&R guys are making in terms of their oval setup. They're really focused on making their cars more efficient in the aero and mechanical areas. I had a great education working with Bill Pappas [at Dale Coyne Racing]. We went through some tough times together but it was good to learn from him. I'm a lot more confident in what I want and knowing what to look for from an oval car now. I'll keep learning, but now I've got a real foundation.”
Said Buhl: “I'm as excited as I've ever been. It's a long time since we've been in a position to have two very competitive entries and we couldn't be happier. We are ready to win some races and really feel that we can do it with Justin and Mike. They are exceptional drivers and we are thrilled to have them on board with us.”
Added Reinbold, “We are excited to be able to put a deal together, for both Mike and Justin. They are both really talented drivers and we believe they will be great teammates. We made a number of productive changes over the off-season and we feel that we are making Dreyer & Reinbold Racing more and more competitive.”
One notable aspect of Wilson's switch is that it is hand-in-hand with his principal sponsor from Dale Coyne Racing, namely, Z-Line Designs. The company's CEO and founder, Jim Sexton, said: “I reviewed the options available because I had contacted a few teams about 2010 and I liked the engineering going on at Dreyer & Reinbold and that the team had a strong racing background. For my part, I've enjoyed dealing with Dennis and Robbie.
“I think Dale and Gail Coyne are wonderful people and I think their Boy Scouts of America program is great, and a worthy cause, but I wondered if the Z-Line brand might become somewhat lost. Having a Z-Line car allows us to put some of our customers like Wal-Mart, Staples or Sears on the car, which wouldn't have necessarily worked so well on a Boy Scouts car.
“Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is well positioned to help us drive value for our retail partners and the Z-Line brand,” continued Sexton. “The IZOD IndyCar Series is gaining steam, which is so important to us because our racing programs, with Justin, and with Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, have been tremendously successful in helping us deliver our message and our penetration of different markets to expand our customer base. I feel that Justin is going to make tremendous progress in 2010 at D&R.”
Wilson echoed these sentiments, stating, “I think it's been a good partnership, and it will get stronger. I want to take Z-Line back to Victory Lane again this year, and do an even better job for them.”
Conway, who earned a well-deserved podium with D&R at Infineon Raceway last year, will again pilot the No. 24 Dad's Root Beer/Roll Coater entry as these companies step up their involvement for his sophomore season.
“This is great news to be re-signing with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for 2010,” he said. “It's good to know what we are doing and we can now focus on getting some wins this year. I am ready for the challenge and look forward to revisiting all the circuits this season. It should be a good one.”