MotorSportsTalk looks through the teams competing in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Dale Coyne Racing is next up, with a completely new lineup, a couple new engineers, and a lot of preseason optimism.
Drivers (Engineer, Strategist)
18-Sebastien Bourdais (Craig Hampson, Darren Crouser)
19-Ed Jones (Michael Cannon, Dale Coyne)
Manufacturer/aero kit: Honda
Sponsors: Sonny’s BBQ (No. 18), Boy Scouts of America (No. 19)
What went right in 2016: In Conor Daly and a rotation of young drivers in the second car, Coyne had enthusiasm about the future for a change, and some very well-executed strategic plays to produce a lot of laps led and both top-five and top-10 finishes. RC Enerson impressed in his three starts more than the better known Luca Filippi and Gabby Chaves in their combined 12 races.
What went wrong in 2016: There were a few too many mistakes and missed opportunities when they presented themselves. But it was still a noticeable improvement over 2015.
What’s changed for 2017: There’s two new drivers and two new engineers, but all have significant upside. Sebastien Bourdais’ ability to overachieve has been found in spades in recent years and now he’s got both his old engineers from Newman/Haas (Hampson) and KVSH (Olivier Boisson) on one box. Ed Jones steps up to IndyCar from Indy Lights and will have to learn quickly, but is talented enough to be up to the task. The program was settled by November, a welcome change.
What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: The paddock expects a better effort from Coyne this year and on paper the well-rounded team from north of Chicago looks to deliver it. Bourdais can win at least one if not multiple races while Jones is this year’s “look for him to snatch a surprise podium on that typically brilliant Coyne strategy” driver. Bourdais can contend for a mid-to-low top-10 points finish while if Jones can finish in the top-15 in points as a rookie, he’ll have done a great job.
Tony DiZinno: Rare are the words “expect Coyne to win at least once, possibly twice” typed, but they are deserved of being written going into 2017. Bourdais has won at least once each of the last three years at KVSH and should do so once more this year, with a top-10 points finish possible if multiple cards fall right. For Jones, one or two “big” results and season-long consistency should be achievable based on his track record in Indy Lights.
Kyle Lavigne: It’s hard to label 2016 as a year of “what might have been” Dale Coyne Racing. They led laps, showed surprising speed (they finished better than sixth on four separate occasions, even collecting a podium), and proved masters of strategy. Yet, they left some results on the table, chiefly at St. Pete and Road America.
With that in mind, 2017 has the makings of a strong season for Dale Coyne Racing. Even though new drivers and new engineers are in play, chemistry should not be a big concern. Sebastien Bourdais and Craig Hampson were a part of the Newman/Haas freight train that decimated all comers in the Champ Car World Series between 2004 and 2007. As Tony indicated, Bourdais has won at least once in each of the last years and he has all the potential to continue that streak in 2017. For Ed Jones, the year will be about learning the series and cars, so expectations will be more modest. Occasionally challenging to move past the first round of qualifying and finishing races in the top ten would be a massive success.
Luke Smith: The instability of recent years now banished, Dale Coyne Racing heads into 2017 looking to deliver on the burgeoning potential we have seen flashes of. Sebastien Bourdais is a big, big signing, such is his experience in IndyCar. Three wins in the past two years shows he still has what it takes to battle at the front, and if the cards fall right for Coyne at some point this year, expect SeaBass to capitalize.
Ed Jones arrives after winning the Indy Lights title last year, and should be chasing rookie of the year honors. A podium would be a good gain for the youngster in his first IndyCar campaign.