Photo courtesy Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

IndyCar: Jimmy Vasser, James Sullivan join with Dale Coyne Racing to form new team

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After a one-year absence away from IndyCar racing, Jimmy Vasser is back.

Vasser and former partner James Sullivan have joined forces with Dale Coyne to form Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. They will campaign the No. 18 Honda with driver Sebastien Bourdais.

“I took a year off from competition for the first time in many years and realized how much I missed it,” Vasser said in a media release. “This is the next chapter in my racing career, so I want to say thank you to Sully, Dale, SealMaster, our sponsors and Sebastien.

“With their support we are focused on re-creating our prior success and again challenging for wins in 2018.”

The No. 18 team will be sponsored for nine of the 17 Verizon IndyCar Series season races by SealMaster. Sponsorship for the other eight races is to be announced.

SealMaster will serve as primary sponsor for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 11. Bourdais is the defending winner of that race.

The other eight races SealMaster will serve as primary sponsor will be Alabama, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, both races in Detroit, Road America, Pocono and Gateway.

SealMaster will serve as associate sponsor for the other eight IndyCar races on the schedule.

Vasser and Sullivan previously were partners in KV Racing Technology and KVSH Racing, which won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with Tony Kanaan and won five more races from 2014 through 2016 with Bourdais as its driver.

The team folded before last season when their third partner, Kevin Kalkhoven, discontinued his involvement in IndyCar racing.

“When Jimmy, Sulli and I met to discuss creating this partnership, it was very enticing,” Coyne said in a media release. They’ve had a lot of success in their previous years in IndyCar and I’m thrilled to have them as partners.

“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down as we move forward with this program. The future is bright and we’re excited to get the season going.”

Meanwhile, Dale Coyne Racing will campaign the No. 19 Honda. No driver nor sponsor has been named yet, even though the team was among several other teams that practiced Monday at Sonoma Raceway.

Behind the wheel Monday in the No. 19 was Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Formula One and CART champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

Bourdais also took part in the test with the No. 18. He is entering his 13th IndyCar season, his third with Dale Coyne Racing and his first under the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan.

He won a record four consecutive IndyCar championships from 2004 through 2007, and is tied for second on the all-time championships list with Mario Andretti and Dario Franchitti.

Bourdais, 36, of France has made 171 career starts and earned 36 wins and 33 poles.

“Over the last few years we’ve all captured poles and won races together,” Bourdais said. “This is a team that started small, but what we needed and now have collectively a consistent program from top-to-bottom that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.