Interview: Buhl Brings IndyCar Experience To Global Rallycross at X Games
Robbie Buhl spent over a decade driving at open wheel racing’s highest level, competing in eight Indianapolis 500s and winning two IndyCar races during his career. Buhl spent his final five seasons behind the wheel as an owner-driver, taking his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team to victory in their very first race at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000.
Since then, Buhl’s organization has been an IndyCar mainstay, campaigning dozens of talented drivers through this year’s Indianapolis 500. But on Sunday, DRR will take on a new challenge—racing at X Games Los Angeles with Scott Speed and OMSE2, in partnership with SH Racing.
For Buhl, coming out of Los Angeles with a good finish is just one of the priorities as he seeks to get acclimated with Global Rallycross. Here, he talks about his initial interest in the sport, putting the program together, and how working with Speed has helped ease the team’s learning curve:
When did you first start looking into racing in Global Rallycross? What were your intentions in putting this program together?
It was probably about a year ago, when the GRC guys ran at Texas with IndyCar, we started watching it. Then, from there, we just kept talking to folks. There’s a lot of interest and a lot of buzz around the series, and we said “hey, we’ve got to start paying attention to this.” So we absolutely were looking at trying to do something to run all this year. That didn’t happen, but I’m really glad that we’re here with DRR-SH Racing, with Sulli (James Sullivan), who’s part of KV Racing’s entry with (Tony) Kanaan—they won the Indianapolis 500, so that’s a pretty good pairing with us, and we’ve got great support from Wix Filters and N.O.-Xplode.
This is really our pilot project—we’re here, we’re going to learn, we’re getting our feet wet. You can always watch from the outside, but you don’t really get quite the same perspective with being on the inside and running a car, talking to the driver and hearing the behind the scenes stuff. So this is our pilot project, running here, but what better place to do it than the LA X Games? This is the Indy 500 for GRC, without a doubt. We’re happy to be here with that.
You’re involved with the Star Car project alongside OMSE2. What prompted the decision to align with that program for this race?
It just goes back to the beginning of the year. Back in April or March, I was talking with the GRC folks, and Andreas (Eriksson) and the OMSE guys. That’s when Colin said “hey, we’re going to do a Star Car,” and I said “we’d like to run a car at X Games.” We all worked together, and that’s how it happened. At that time we knew there were a lot of good drivers out there—talk to any driver, and they’re all like “I want to drive one of those cars.” I want to drive one of those cars! Whether or not I’m going to go race one, I definitely want to have one to drive, and have some fun with for sure.
At that time, we didn’t really know who the drivers we’re going to be. We knew Scott ran that first race, and then it turned out that he was going to do the rest of them. I was like “hey, that’s cool with us.” He’s got a great background, winning the first race. But in terms of what he’s done in Formula 1 and NASCAR, there’s just a real appeal to what he’s done up to this point.
You’ve been involved in IndyCar racing as a team owner since 2000. What about Global Rallycross and its fanbase makes the sport a good fit for your team?
As a driver who’s been retired and a team owner in IndyCar, I love IndyCar and I love the Indy 500. But the one thing that just really is exciting about GRC, other than what the racing is, what the lifestyle of what this sport is and what it attracts, is that you talk to potential sponsors and owners and friends, and they say “tell me more about that!”
There’s just a really good interest level—from an auto manufacturer’s standpoint, this is the demographic that they have to get to at a young age. They have to start making an imprint on somebody at the age of 15 where they’re a supporter forever. So Ford wants to get a young person and carry them through the lifestyle of being a Ford customer, from the entry level Fiesta, all the way up to when they want to buy the family sedan, and take them on to Lincoln from there, even.
How has working with Scott Speed been so far? Do you have any hopes or expectations for him this weekend?
We want to learn all about the sport—where its strengths and weaknesses are, where we focus for our next step to be here full time, and how we do that. There are a lot of different options. So obviously we’re taking that all in. But if Scott could come out of here with a medal, that would be fantastic. You always say you want to win—everyone is here to win. But he’s already proven he can be competitive, and we know the cars are competitive. It’s what Tanner (Foust) and (Brian) Deegan drove last year, so it’s a great product, well prepared. If a little bit of luck gets on your side, and you don’t make mistakes…
I think Scott’s way pumped and excited. It’s been a pleasure. I had never really talked with him much until the past couple of days, and he’s been great in terms of telling us about how he weighs out the intricacies of the sport, what is and what isn’t, what he’s learned, what his learning curve is like—to tap him and say “what do you prioritize, what are the keys as we look forward?” That’s been good. But getting a medal here? Yeah, we’d be happy with that.
Images via DRR-SH Racing