A couple of days ago, Dreyer & Reinbold made a lot of people happy by signing a driver, thus confirming atleast one car, but they also made some people upset when that driver wasn't Buddy Rice or Townsend Bell. Instead, they picked up a 25-yr old British driver by the name of Mike Conway.
Now, I'm not here to tell you all the news, you've all got your own sites for that. But there are a couple of things that got me thinking when learning he was signed.
a) This Mike Conway (who I must say, looks much more like 15 years old then 25) has a decent record over in Europe. He has won a couple of championships, as well as winning the Macau GP in Formula 3, and the Monaco street race in GP2. So you could say he is among the upper group of ride buyers around, and he just happens to have won a few street races, giving him the upper hand in the IRL with the schedule bending towards more street venues.
b) This guarentees that D&R runs atleast one car, but it is probably making Buddy Rice, Townsend Bell, and Milka Duno worry about their futures in the IRL. It had been speculated that Buddy Rice would return to drive the Dad's Root Beer car, and most people had him down as probable. Curt Cavin reported in his daily Q&A that he had spoken to Robbie Buhl, and that a second car was likely, but that Buddy Rice would most likely not be returning.
So does that leave Ms. Grand Am as the front runner? Or does D&R have another trick up their sleeve. Maybe Townsend Bell goes full time, or they acquire one of the top free agents at a discount?
We will see who they put in the second car, if it does in fact come to fruition, but atleast it is good news that we can expect 2 D&R cars at St. Pete.
c) You have to wonder how, if in anyway, Honda was involved in this signing. Conway was a test driver for the Honda F-1 team in 2008, and they apparently set him up with the Panther test earlier this year.
Is Honda providing the backing for Conway to run at D&R in 2009? Probably. It is most likely a favor for the testing job ending this season.
But the bigger question in my mind is this. Is Honda starting to align itself with teams it wants to keep on it's side when the new engine suppliers join in 2011?
You might not think of it much now, but Audi has been putting out feelers to teams to gauge their interest about running a V-W or Audi badged engine in 2011. Honda might be trying to pick their teams now, and providing D&R with a talented driver for the season might be the beginning of just that. Let's not forget that Honda has placed Hideki Mutoh with AGR and paid for his 2 seasons now, and you can assume that Honda would like to see AGR stay with them in 2011.
You've got to think the wheels are in motion for the future, and this could be a sign of it.