Bourdais could surprise at Coyne. Photo: IndyCar

IndyCar 2017 team preview: Dale Coyne Racing

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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.

Jones steps up to IndyCar in 2017. Photo: IndyCar
Jones steps up to IndyCar in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

MST PREDICTIONS

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.

More races, more friction in the future for F1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The new owners of Formula One are planning to have more races and a greater presence in North America, and wouldn’t mind revving up the ratings with some extra friction among drivers.

Sean Bratches, the managing director of commercial operations for the Formula One Group – formerly Liberty Media – which took over the running of the sport in January, is already fielding offers from promotors wanting to buy in.

Lewis Hamilton has suggested Miami and Daniel Ricciardo picked Las Vegas as places they’d like to see new races, and Bratches told a news conference Friday that “there’s no dearth of interest in bringing Formula One to circuits, both track and street, around the world.”

Bratches said he’d had a “number of inquiries from cities, states, municipalities and countries around the world that are interested.”

There are 20 races on the 2017 calendar, starting with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, and concluding with Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November. The debate over the number and location of races has been frequent over the last decade.

F1 racing returned in 2012 to the United States, where it is held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in October. While the bulk of the races remain in Europe and Asia, there are also GPs in Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

“Our interest is in expanding the number of circuits in that marketplace, leveraging Austin – our incumbent and the benchmark in terms of what we’re doing in the States,” said Bratches, adding there was clear demand for it in North America. “We’re excited about all markets around the world, but the United States is going to be a focus.”

Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ricciardo, an Australian who finished third on the season standings last year, are among the drivers who’d like to see more than 20 races in the F1 series. Veteran Fernando Alonso also doesn’t mind the idea of expansion, although maybe not for a few years.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who has won four world drivers’ titles, thinks 16 to 20 would be enough. All agreed that expansion was pointless unless it increases the level of competition. Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the last three seasons, and Red Bull was dominant for the four seasons before that.

There’s always been driver tension in F1, usually between teams but also involving teammates vying for championships. Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who edged Hamilton for the title last year and then retired, had an openly strained rivalry at Mercedes since 2013.

That’s something former ESPN executive Bratches doesn’t mind.

Responding to a question about the drivers being overly-managed by public relations people, Bratches said: “There’s a number of sports where there’s big personalities that allow sports to punch above their respective pay grades.”

He said the drivers were a big part of the fan engagement.

“Candidly, I would love it if more of the drivers had big personalities, there was more controversy among the drivers – and you kind of unleash them a little bit,” he said. “I think that’s good for all of us.”

Jolyon Palmer on the back foot in Australia after F1 practice crash

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Renault’s Jolyon Palmer has admitted that he is “on the back foot” heading into the remainder of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix after completing just 10 laps in Friday’s Formula 1 practice sessions.

F1 sophomore Palmer arrived in Australia looking to impress after enjoying a bold drive on debut at Albert Park 12 months ago, narrowly missing out on a points finish.

The Briton was the first driver to fall victim of F1’s more challenging cars in an official 2017 race weekend session, losing control through the final corner and slamming into the wall to bring his FP2 running to an early end.

This followed a problem earlier in the day that had limited his FP1 mileage, leaving Palmer with just 10 laps to his name from three hours of Friday running.

“Sadly it was a pretty short day for me in terms of time in the car. We had a minor technical issue in the first session then I had an off in FP2, which unlike FP1 required more than one part replacing,” Palmer explained.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened and we’ll be having a close look at the data. I feel for my crew as they have a decent amount of work to do.

“I’m hopeful of more track time tomorrow, but we’ll be on the back foot heading into qualifying after only 10 laps today.”

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 2am ET on Saturday morning.

Indy 500 champ Rossi takes his shot with the Blackhawks (PHOTOS)

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There are many cool things you get to do after winning the Indianapolis 500. Visiting the grounds of one of the NHL’s most successful, Stanley Cup-winning teams is one of them.

Andretti-Herta Autosport’s Alexander Rossi visited Chicago this week to meet up with the Chicago Blackhawks, trading in his usual No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda for a No. 98 jersey.

Usually it’s the ‘Hawks that are one of the top teams in the NHL and a usual Stanley Cup trophy winner – they’ve won in 2013 and 2015, recently – but it’s the Cubs that right now host a championship trophy having won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

Anyway, here’s a few photos and videos from Rossi’s trip to Chitown, which also included his own chance to shoot a puck.

Rossi took a photo with iconic Blackhawks singer Jim Cornelison:

Here’s Rossi with Marian Hossa:

Here’s a quick photo before practicing, then video of Rossi practicing:

Rossi paid a visit to WGN Radio:

And all told, Rossi was a fan:

FIA WEC reveals restructured TV commentary team

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One of Audi’s flagship drivers, Allan McNish and veteran TV hosts Martin Haven and Toby Moody join Louise Beckett and Graham Goodwin as part of the restructured television commentary team for the FIA World Endurance Championship, ahead of its 2017 season.

McNish retired from active driving at the end of the 2013 season and the two-time Le Mans winner and 2013 WEC LMP1 champion with Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval has remained an ambassador for Audi in the years since. He’ll be at six of the eight WEC rounds this season (Le Mans considered separately, although under the WEC umbrella).

Moody has been a familiar voice for his bike coverage and in the U.S., for Red Bull Global Rallycross broadcasts on NBC Sports. He’ll be on for the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring and the 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Haven is well known to sports car fans and will be on for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, 6 Hours of Mexico, 6 Hours of COTA, 6 Hours of Fuji and 6 Hours of Shanghai.

Beckett continues in the pits and paddock with DailySportscar editor Goodwin also back as part of the team; he’s been the lead analyst alongside John Hindhaugh the last couple years.

Hindhaugh won’t be on the TV side, instead having announced earlier this week on his own he’d be focusing on Radio Show Limited’s audio productions for WEC shows. Le Mans is treated as a separate entity from a broadcast and production side compared to the rest of the WEC season.

Renowned for his radio calls, Hindhaugh will be in his true area of passion throughout this season, as he also is Stateside for IMSA Radio’s coverage of IMSA championships. RSL has also recently announced it will broadcast VLN coverage this season (more here via DailySportscar).

“Thankfully the busy endurance racing schedule has only a couple of clashes so that means that for most of the WEC events I will be joining the established team providing live commentary for RSL radio,” Hindhaugh said in a release.

“For the WEC events I’m covering for the RSL radio service, we’ll be adding live audio coverage of qualifying to the regular full race broadcast.”

In the WEC release, series CEO Gerard Neveu thanked Hindhaugh for what he’s brought to the TV side the last couple years while also looking forward to the new arrivals to this year’s broadcast team.

“We believe that one of the reasons for the WEC’s current success in today’s motorsport world is that we try not to rest on our laurels; we are always looking to innovate and re-energize the championship in every area.

“John Hindhaugh, who has been our lead commentator until now, has decided to return to his first love of radio commentary, and we want to thank him for the great job he has done, and for his contribution to the championship. We are sure we will have an opportunity to work together again in the future but, for this year, we are very enthusiastic about our new broadcast team and the season ahead.”

The WEC season kicks off with the Prologue test next week in Monza before the season itself starts April 16 at Silverstone.