Indy 500: The underdog team you can’t afford to ignore

Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Meyer Shank Racing pulled off the upset in last year’s Indy 500, and another small team is positioned to do the same in 2022.

Following 11 unsuccessful attempts as a three-time winner with Team Penske, Helio Castroneves finally became a four-time Indy 500 winner last May after making the move to Meyer Shank Racing, becoming the fourth driver to win the race four times.

In his first start behind the wheel of the #06 Honda, Castroneves became the first part-time driver to win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” since the late Dan Wheldon led only the final lap of the 95th running of the race back in 2011.

Also. Danica Patrick's worst crash. light

The 2021 season was only Meyer Shank Racing’s second season as a full-time operation, and last year’s 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in Speedway, Indiana was their first ever race fielding more than one entry.

Suffice it to say that they are no longer an under-the-radar team when it comes to the Racing Capital of the World.

Castroneves is back for another season in 2022, this time as a full-time driver, and fellow former Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud replaced former full-time driver Jack Harvey, who now competes for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, behind the wheel of the #60 Honda.

Pagenaud, the 2019 Indy 500 champion, finished in third place in his final attempt for Team Penske last year after starting all the way back in 26th. As a result, Meyer Shank Racing have two of last year’s top three finishers in their driver lineup for 2022.

But there is another team that could pull off what Meyer Shank Racing did last year this year, and that is Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing haven’t run a full schedule since 2012, and save for 2013 and 2020 when they ran a part-time schedule, they have been an Indy 500-only team for the last decade or so.

After running only a single entry for Sage Karam last year, they are back to running two entries, like they did from 2018 to 2020. Karam is back behind the wheel of the #24 Chevrolet, and Santino Ferrucci is set to pilot the #23 Chevrolet.

If you’re looking for an under-the-radar team that could pull off a major upset, look no farther than this organization.

This driver lineup makes them the only team aside from Meyer Shank Racing to have two of last year’s top seven finishers. Karam finished in seventh place, and Ferrucci, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, finished in sixth.

But this isn’t the only aspect of the team’s lineup that makes this team one to watch.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing haven’t always brought the best qualifying speed for the Indy 500. In seven starts for the team, Karam has started no higher than 21st place.

Yet they have given him race pace capable of contending.

Karam’s seventh place finish last year came after he qualified in 31st place, making him the biggest mover in last year’s field. In fact, he has made three straight Indy 500 starts from 31st.

To put that in perspective, 17 of the other confirmed 32 Indy 500 drivers, including Ferrucci, hadn’t even made their IndyCar debuts the last time Karam started in a position other than 31st.

He also started in 31st place when he made his Indy 500 debut with the team as a teenager back in 2014, and he finished in ninth, again making him the biggest mover in the field.

In 2016, Karam started in 23rd place and was running in the top five when he crashed while battling Townsend Bell for position. In 2018, he started in 24th and made his way up to seventh before he crashed on a day when the nature of the new car led to several single-car crashes, even from a number of IndyCar veterans, including Castroneves.

As for Ferrucci, his Indy 500 has been characterized almost the exact same way. In three starts, his best starting position is 19th place. His worst finish? Seventh.

Driving for Dale Coyne Racing, he went from 23rd place to seventh in 2019 en route to capturing Rookie of the Year honors. The following year, driving for the team in partnership with Vasser-Sullivan, he went from 19th to fourth. His sixth place finish for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last year came after another 23rd place start.

Of course, good qualifying speed would be a boost for the team as they return to a two-car effort for 2022. Perhaps Karam or Ferrucci can finally start higher than row seven.

Regardless, if Dreyer & Reinbold Racing can do what they do on race day, look out for both of these drivers as dark horse candidates to drink the milk in victory lane on Memorial Day Sunday.

Next. Top 25 IndyCar drivers of all-time. dark

Qualifying for the 106th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, and the race itself is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 29, with NBC set to provide live coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. ET.