Esteban Gutierrez’s winding road to being confirmed in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the remainder of the 2017 season, starting at Road America for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series KOHLER Grand Prix, has come only after a circuitous few weeks since his series debut in Detroit earlier this month.
On Thursday morning, the Coyne team has confirmed Gutierrez will be in the No. 18 UNIFIN Honda for the remaining races until Sebastien Bourdais returns. This ends a driver rotation since his accident in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. James Davison, Gutierrez and Tristan Vautier have been in the car since.
As for Gutierrez, he made his debut on the street course at Belle Isle Park, only for his FIA Formula E Championship team Techeetah to have alleged a breach of contract by Gutierrez for taking on the IndyCar opportunity to replace the injured Sebastien Bourdais with Coyne.
Team owner Coyne told IndyCar Radio at Detroit he expected Gutierrez in for Road America and said he’d have a test day later in the month.
The next obstacle for Gutierrez was seeing if he could get an oval test to race at Texas Motor Speedway. But with IndyCar on a test blackout those days in-between Detroit and Texas, that wasn’t cleared, and Vautier filled in.
Gutierrez indeed tested at Road America on June 14 as scheduled, however was doing so under the auspices that he couldn’t post anything about it nor could the team say anything about it, reportedly due to the ongoing Formula E situation whereby Stephane Sarrazin wound up replacing Gutierrez at Techeetah. Gutierrez briefly posted a tweet from the test, but deleted it mere moments later.
Sarrazin was only cleared by the stewards mere hours before the start of the Berlin ePrix weekend as it was deemed a late driver change.
While Gutierrez was, again, still expected for Road America, the fact Team AKKA-ASP announced Renger van der Zande to fill in for Vautier in the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the weekend’s Blancpain Endurance Series race at Paul Ricard stoked rumors that Vautier might have an encore performance after his Texas showcase. The entry list was released on Tuesday with TBA by Coyne’s No. 18 car.
Alas, the long and short of all of this is Gutierrez is in for Elkhart Lake to kick off the rest of his season, and now has a test day in an IndyCar under his belt and past race experience there in Formula BMW, albeit a decade ago.
“I’m very happy to finally announce my racing program for the rest of the season,” Gutierrez said. “To represent Mexico in the Verizon IndyCar Series has a huge significance to all the fans that have been following the series through history and I’m very grateful to fill in this position.
“IndyCar has highly competitive teams and drivers and the challenge for me will be great, but I will use all my experience from Formula 1 with Sauber, Haas F1 Team and Ferrari in order to adapt quickly to the car and the tracks. I look forward to continue working with Dale Coyne Racing and Honda, I put my trust in them to achieve great results together. I cannot wait to jump in my Unifin #18 car at Road America this weekend!”
Coyne added, “We’re very pleased that Esteban can join us for the remainder of the season. Esteban did a very good job in Detroit despite having a lot to learn in a short amount of time. He fit in very well with the team and I look forward to our next races with him, starting with Road America this week.”
Qualifying coverage on NBCSN takes place Saturday at 5 p.m. ET with the race live Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.