Dreyer name lives on at Indy 500, 89 years after "Pop" began family legacy

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Floyd Herbert “Pop” Dreyer was headed to Oklahoma from Ohio for a fresh start, but ran out of money in Indianapolis.

He had retired from a celebrated national championship career of racing Indian motorcycles; his desire wasn’t the same after recuperating from a broken back. Dreyer’s unexpected destiny eventually became a family racing legacy that still exists today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

“Pop” is responsible for the first name in Dreyer & Reinbold - Kingdom Racing. He landed a welding job in 1926 after getting stuck in the Hoosier State capital. Then he stuck around. He eventually took a job with the Duesenberg Automotive Company and first became involved with the Indianapolis 500 when working on cars for the 1927 race. 

“It was dumb luck and it was good luck,” grandson Mike Dreyer said today while sharing details of the family history, including a picture of his grandfather standing next to a Duesenberg at IMS in 1927.

When people hear the name of Dreyer & Reinbold these days, they might first think of BMW dealerships. Dreyer’s racing name has been kept alive at IMS by Dennis Reinbold, another “Pop” grandson. Reinbold became involved with his first race at the Speedway in 1999, has returned every year since and has the No. 24 car entered with driver Sage Karam in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Floyd "Pop" DreyerReinbold grew up about a mile and a half from the speedway. He recalls his share of stories from “Pop.”

“We lived next door to him when I was a kid,” Reinbold said this week from outside the team garage in Gasoline Alley. “For years, we were there with him. Lots of stories. He had a dirt track out in Mount Meridian, about an hour west of here. As kids, we would grow up and go out and run motorcycles around that track. He would go out in one of his sidecars and do the same. He was like a little kid out there, when he got to go out in that sidecar and scare people and race it around his track. A lot of good memories. A lot of good stories.”

Dreyer continued to make a name for himself building sprint cars and midgets. Then he kept tinkering on race cars and became one of the foremost authorities from the 1930s to the 1950s. One relatively unknown accomplishment was Dreyer working on the bodies of all three front-row cars for the 1931 Indy 500, according to Mike, who wrote the 2000 book, “They Called Him Pop: The Floyd ‘Pop’ Dreyer Story.”

Reinbold recalled a sign in his grandfather’s garage: “When All Else Fails, Ask Pop.”

“He was a go-to guy,” Reinbold said. “I didn’t realize as a kid what that sign meant until I started seeing and realizing everyone in the racing industry had respect for him. They would come by and talk to him and get ideas. He was the go-to guy in racing for many years.”

Dreyer’s son of the same name, known simply as “Junior,” kept the family tradition alive by working on the Indy 500 race crews of several drivers including 1949 winner Bill Holland and 18-time starter Lloyd Ruby. Junior, 85, and Mike, 65, operate Dreyer Honda, about three miles south of IMS. The dealership, created by “Pop” in 1959, is promoted as the oldest Honda dealer in the U.S.

But it’s more than that. Aside from a showroom of shiny motorcycles, the walls are lined with pictures. Many are of “Pop,” young and old, with a pipe in his mouth, turning from his work for just that moment. The Dreyers also have classic motorcycles, including a restored Indian, as well as vintage sprint cars, including a yellow 1938 model.

Dreyer Midget“We appreciate Dennis keeping it ‘Dreyer & Reinbold,’” Junior said. “He could have just gone with ‘Reinbold Racing.’”

Reinbold humbly acknowledges the importance of carrying on the family tradition.

“I try to, but I’m not at his level by any stretch,” he said. “We have a passion for this place. We prepare as best we possibly can to come out here and try to win. That’s the only reason we show up, that’s to win this race. It’s a lot of hard work and we understand what the work is like. A lot of late nights, but that’s OK. That’s part of it.

“This would be a great year to win it. Any year to win Indy would be a great year, but this one has a little more special meaning. It’s quite a buzz around here. It’s just going to be a fun atmosphere, one I’m going to soak up this month.”

Junior and Mike recall the elder Dreyer’s work ethic, for continually and obsessively striving to make his racing machines go faster and also for not wanting to take too much time when driving himself. Mike says there were always three races for “Pop” back in the day, the race to the track, the race on the track and the race to get back home.

On one of the walls, a framed story from a 1978 edition of the Indianapolis Star reports an observation from Dreyer’s wife, that even at 80 “Pop” spent more time working on his motorcycles than he did at home.

“There wasn’t eight hours in a day working,” Junior said. “From the time he got up to when it was time to quit, well, when he had to quit.”

Not long before “Pop” died in 1989, he confessed to Mike that he wasn’t a good father, that he never played games with his children.

“You did better than that,” Mike said. “You taught us how to work with our hands and how to earn a living.”

Added Junior, “I thought the world of him.”

Reinbold has exhibited some of that same determination to keep Dreyer & Reinbold Racing going. He and Eric Debord started the team in 1999. Debord eventually exited and Robbie Buhl, who won the team’s first and only race in 2000, became a co-owner in 2006. Buhl eventually exited, too. Since 2012, Kingdom Racing’s George Del Canto has been co-owner.

Not counting 1999, when Reinbold’s team needed an AJ Foyt Racing car at the last minute to make the race after a crash and blown engine (Foyt was the official entry), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has been a part of 34 entries in the Indy 500. The best finish came in 2012 with Oriol Servia, who finished fourth after starting 27th in a joint entry with Panther Racing.

“I need to win the race for it to have the meaning I came here for,” Reinbold said. “That’s it. There’s no gray area there. I’ve done this too many times. Fourth place, everybody was kind of happy for a while. And then I was like, ‘Well, damnit, we didn’t win.’ It’s not good enough.”

He has confidence in his young driver, the 21-year-old Karam, who is eager to make his third Indy 500 start. Karam drove for Reinbold as an Indy rookie two years ago, finishing ninth from the 31st starting position. He crashed out in 32nd last year while driving for Chip Ganassi.

“We’ve got more to do,” Reinbold said. “I’m confident about this year.”

Junior and Mike, once again, look forward to attending the race. What would “Pop” say, seeing his name on an Indy car?

“He was never one to boast about anything,” Mike said. “He just liked to do it.

“He’d know he succeeded. He’d chew on his pipe, just look at it and have that grin on his face.”

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