GP2: Daly scores first points of 2014; wins for Pic and Vandoorne

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Conor Daly has scored his first points of the 2014 GP2 Series season in Hungary today after battling through to finish seventh in the sprint race.

The American driver has endured a luckless start to the year, failing to score any points so far for Venezuela GP Lazarus. During the feature race on Saturday, Daly came home in 15th position after falling foul of a safety car period.

For the sprint race, he started P13 after Raffaele Marciello and Stefano Coletti both received penalties for misdemeanors on Saturday, and fought his way into the points.

Daly came under pressure from Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Tom Dillman towards the end of the race, but managed to keep his cool and stay ahead of secure his first points of the year in seventh place.

Just as the safety car period ruined Daly’s race on Saturday, it aided Arthur Pic en route to his first win in GP2. The Frenchman was elated to have won in Hungary, saying that it was “still a bit difficult to realise”. He was joined on the podium by Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Takuya Izawa, who had started 22nd and 26th on the grid respectively. Coletti did finish second on track, but was stripped of the result after he was deemed to have forced a driver off the track during the race.

On Sunday, the spoils went to McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian youngster produced a controlled drive, leading from the start after jumping pole-sitter Nathanael Berthon off the line. He was chased home by championship contenders Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Nasr.

With this result, Palmer has extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship, and is in the box seat to secure the 10th GP2 title this year with just four rounds remaining.

For Daly, this result will hopefully mark the start of an upturn in fortunes. He is now the sole remaining American driver in GP2 after Alexander Rossi’s departure from Caterham and Campos, although he is hoping to return to the grid soon.

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.

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