Indy teams decide to pair up for 2012 season

John Barnes and Dennis Reinbold grew up in the IndyCar Series

together. Now the two Indianapolis-based owners and longtime

friends are teaming up to help one another, just in time for the

biggest race of the season.

On Monday, less than a week before Indianapolis 500 preparations

begin, the teams announced Panther Racing would let Reinbold driver

Oriol Servia use its second Chevrolet engine in the No. 22 car, and

that Servia would serve as a teammate for Panther driver JR

Hildebrand. The teams will work out of Panther’s shop.

It was a deal forged out of necessity for both teams.

”We’ve wanted to operate as a two-car team for some time now,

but the right opportunity has never arisen to allow us to

accomplish that,” Barnes said. ”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.”

The decision may have been even easier for Reinbold, who has

fielded multi-car teams at the Indianapolis 500 in recent

years.

In November, he agreed to use the new Lotus engines this season.

But two weeks ago, when it became apparent Lotus was playing

second-fiddle to powerhouse manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda,

Reinbold and Bryan Herta Autosport were released from those

contracts.

Reinbold has been looking for a way to put Servia back in

contention before this month’s 500. Barnes had the engine Reinbold

wanted, and when Chevy approved, the deal was completed.

”This is the best of both worlds — I’m already with a great

team, a great crew and great owners at Dreyer & Reinbold — 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 said.

”I’m also looking forward to joining the Chevy family; they’ve

been performing so well and shown an unbelievable commitment to

win.”

The pairing also means two of last season’s top IndyCar drivers

will be working together for the rest of 2012.

Servia, a 37-year-old Spaniard, finished fourth in the points

with Newman/Haas Racing in 2011 when he had six top-five finishes

and five others in the top 10. At Indy, Servia started from the

front row after qualifying third. He finished sixth.

Hildebrand, a 24-year-old American, started all 17 races and

finished second to James Hinchcliffe in the 2011 rookie of the year

chase. The former Indy Lights champ had five top-10s last season

but is best remembered for hitting the wall on the final turn of

the last lap at Indy. After the crash, his No. 4 car skidded across

the finish line in second, behind the late Dan Wheldon. It was

Barnes’ fourth consecutive second-place finish at Indy.

Panther, a two-time series points champ, believes Servia’s

assistance can help them finally help them reach Victory Lane in

their hometown race.

”It’s great to be joining forces with those guys and this is

the next step toward being a contender at the front of the IndyCar

field on a consistent basis,” Hildebrand said. ”This is going to

be nothing but a huge gain for all of us.”

It’s not the first time these teams have worked together. Late

last season, Panther and DRR formed a technical partnership.

The pairing also reunites Hildebrand with DRR, the team with

which Hildebrand made his IndyCar debut in 2010. Hildebrand drove

twice for DRR, finishing 16th at Mid-Ohio and 24th at Infineon.

Servia was the 2005 Champ Car runner-up, the same season he won

at Montreal.