Dale Coyne’s team an underdog to watch Sunday at Indy

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If Honda can find the race pace and fuel mileage gains similar to what propelled it to victory in last year’s Indianapolis 500, there’s a number of its teams that could pull off a surprise.

When you think Honda, you immediately think of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The other teams in Honda’s stable include two other Ganassi cars, Bryan Herta’s Barracuda Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and Sam Schmidt’s three-car team (Schmidt Peterson, Schmidt Hamilton, and Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey).

Dale Coyne’s team probably doesn’t jump out at you on that list as a possible win contender. But it should.

Justin Wilson has found his footing on ovals in the last couple years, with a solid seventh place finish in two of the last three Indianapolis 500s, and of course, his win at Texas Motor Speedway last June. He can corral a car limited on downforce with the best of them.

Come this year, Wilson put in the second fastest qualifying effort for a Honda (14th on the grid), and seems to have the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America/Sonny’s BBQ entry close on race trim downforce levels.

“We were not quite where we want to be just yet with the car in race trim, but we’ll have another chance on Friday to keep working on it,” Wilson said in a release. “We had a strong car late in the race last year and that’s the objective this week, to have a good balance so we can be competitive when it counts on Sunday.”

Teammates Ana Beatriz (No. 18 Ipiranga) and Pippa Mann (No. 63 Cyclops Gear) – and you’ll hear more from them later this week on MotorSportsTalk – are each in the tenth row of the grid after qualifying on Bump Day. This year marks Beatriz’s fourth 500 start and Mann’s second.

Mann described the nature of life in the hot seat during qualifying weekend in her latest diary for RACER Magazine. A sample of how focused a driver has to be during this period comes during the traditional post-qualifying picture after a driver’s first run.

“When you know the first run was not what you were looking for, cracking a smile for the cameras that actually looks genuine is much more of a tall order than you would think!” she wrote. “Your brain is already back with your engineer, wanting to analyze the data the moment the car is out of post qualifying tech, and find out what was going on.”

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”