The new IndyCar team formed by Indy Racing League race winner Robbie Buhl and his partners is still on track to make its debut this year and race at the Indianapolis 500 in August, despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Buhl and his brother Tom – who run a motorsports marketing company – have joined forces with Robert Citrone, who is the largest minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers American football team, and his son Nick, who is a data analyst for the Pittsburgh Penguins ice hockey squad.
Established IndyCar squad Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is preparing Citrone/Buhl Autosport’s Honda-powered cars, with Spencer Pigot lined up as the driver.
RLL has won eight IndyCar races in the last five years with Graham Rahal and ex-Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato.
Citrone/Buhl was due to make its IndyCar debut at the Indianapolis Grand Prix road course race just before the the Indy 500 in May, but a rescheduled calendar has pushed the former back to July 4 in a shared weekend with the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
The team still aims to race in that event in July, before gearing up for the Indy 500 on August 23.
“With the new entity that we’ve formed with Citrone Buhl Autosport, we’re like anybody – we wish we were racing at Indy last weekend and the month of May was the regular ‘Month of May’,” Buhl, pictured below when a co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold in 2009, told The Race.
“But now we’ll shift to August. That’s the plan.
“The purpose of the formation of our new team is not to just to do Indy this year, but the beginning of us working together and the first step of that.
“So it takes some of the momentum we had away.
“The beginning of March everything shut down so progress on that shut down.
“From an operational standpoint with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan guys, that car was being built specifically for Spencer, the structure and the manpower designated to the performance of that car, that’s all good.
“So hopefully we get back to a little bit of normality and we look to Indy on August 23 and we hope things will be back and we’ll build from there.”
RLL scored an Indy 500 top-three finish last year with Sato, who also took its most recent win on the oval at Gateway last year.
Citrone/Buhl’s driver Pigot made his series debut with RLL in 2016, and spent the last two seasons racing for Ed Carpenter before being replaced by rookie Rinus VeeKay for 2020.
Pigot’s best result came with second at Iowa in 2018, while he scored four top 10s on his way to 14th in the standings for the second successive year in 2019.
Buhl says now is the time for 26-year-old Pigot to prove he deserves his IndyCar seat and to fulfil the promise of his multi-championship winning junior single-seater career.
“He’s got time in an IndyCar,” said Buhl.
“Now’s the time he has to perform and get results.
“When you look at what he’s accomplished to this point winning races and championships, he can do that.
“So he’s so young for the experience he has. I think I was 25 or 26 when I first got in an IndyCar. Everybody is getting younger right?”
Dreyer & Reinbold evaluating options
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing was another team to be unsettled by the schedule changes in the IndyCar calendar, and its driver Sage Karam (pictured above) says it is investigating what to do next.
The team has stuck to racing in the Indy 500 in recent years, but had been due to expand this year with an entry for the season-opener at St Petersburg, before the race was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously we’re still planning on doing the 500 which is now in August, and then I think we’re still looking at doing another race before then, we’re not sure which,” Karam told The Race.
“But if we did any other races it would be road course, and then I think after the 500 we’d look at how everything has gone and potentially do more after Indy.”
St Petersburg has now been moved to the season finale slot on October 25, and both Karam and the team had been bullish about their chances to fight into the top 10 there in March before the race’s cancellation.
While the coronavirus did halt D&R’s move towards increased IndyCar rounds, it did allow Karam to put the team in the spotlight in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.
A beta tester for the original iRacing game and a member of the Coanda Simsport team, Karam won the first Challenge race at Watkins Glen and was always among the fastest drivers at each track during the series.