Coyne’s third team win both authoritative and rewarding for hard work

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Dale Coyne’s third win in his 30-year history as an IndyCar team owner was easily his most authoritative.

The first was the “oh mercy, Dale Coyne’s team actually won a race!” when Justin Wilson took the checkered flag at Watkins Glen International in 2009. Then, last year, Wilson pulled off a surprise win at Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval when Graham Rahal smacked the wall off Turn 4 in the final stages.

This Saturday in Detroit, Mike Conway came in off the streets, led 47 of 70 laps from second on the grid, and delivered a dominant victory in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda.

Not bad for a guy who was in his father’s vegetable garden in England last Sunday, when a certain 500-mile race was going on in Indianapolis…

“Well, yeah, Mark (Blundell, Conway’s manager) had a call from Dale, and spoke about possibly doing this weekend,” said Conway. “Yeah, I watched the first 10 laps of Indy. It looked good. I went away. I was in the garden helping my dad out with his vegetable garden. It was one of those kind of lazy Sundays.

“I watched the last 60 laps. It was really exciting and great to see all my friends out there. My father is quite the farmer. Horticulture; it’s in England. Then Monday, Tuesday, really got the heads up then, Tuesday lunchtime, it was all good to go. So amazing, yeah.”

When asked what the secret to Coyne’s team success, Conway chimed in, “British drivers.” Coyne gave an actual answer shortly thereafter.

“I just think it’s common sense, years of knowledge on everybody’s part,” Coyne said. “Our two engineers (Conway’s, John Dick, and Wilson’s, Bill Pappas) and myself, we’ve been doing this a long time.You know not to out-trick yourself. You remember things from the past that worked, think outside the box.

“We had a pretty aggressive engineering plan over the winter.  You put all those things together and I think it’s paid off well.”

Wilson, who gave Coyne the first two wins, was all too happy for his countryman and the team today.

“I think it’s just a really cool story how he didn’t think he was going to be doing anything this weekend and here he is winning the race,” said the lanky Englishman. “There’s been a lot of hard work by Dale and the guys.  Everyone has a lot to prove, that we were capable of winning at the front, trying to be more consistent, just working on every area.”

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.