Lyn St. James returns to race at Indianapolis this weekend

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Even though it has been 14 years since she last raced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lyn St. James will once again race on the fabled 2.5-mile speedway in this weekend’s Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Vintage Racing Invitational.

St. James, who is now 67, will race in two different classes in one of the premier vintage racing events in the country, which runs from Friday through Sunday and is expected to draw a record 700-plus vintage cars and racers.

Cars in competition will date as far back as the early 1900s, as well as prototypes and former championship-winning rides.

The Ohio native will race in the “Indy Legends” Pro-Am race, driving a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and will compete against fellow legends including Al Unser Jr., Buddy Lazier, Scott Goodyear and Davey Hamilton, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star.

St. James, the first woman to win Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors in 1992, will also drive a 1977 Chevron Atlantic in the Group 9 open-wheel event, as well.

While she spends most of her days now as a motivational speaker, according to the Star, she is far from being retired from behind the wheel.

“The word (retired) sort of gets my back up because I’m just a retired IndyCar driver (but) I’m still racing,” St. James told The Star. “People love to put that word because that’s what life to them is like. They have a job, and then they retire, but this is our job, and it’s also our passion.”

St. James has a compelling question-and-answer session with The Star that long-time race fans will likely find very interesting.

One highlight we wanted to point out, is St. James’ response when she was asked if she still gets the urge to “jump in a car whenever you’re at a race track?”

“I can only be at a race track for a few days if I’m not racing,” St. James said. “But if I’m running, I could stay there forever. It’s who I am. I still get the same feeling, the juices flow inside, it elevates all your senses — sound, smell, everything is elevated.”

To read the interview, click here.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne