IndyCar: Huertas full season, Dracone first four races for Dale Coyne Racing

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Following up on yesterday’s post that they’d be testing at Barber Motorsports Park this week, now both Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone have been confirmed for Dale Coyne Racing in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Huertas, the 2014 Houston race one winner, will return for a full season in the No. 18 Honda with Dracone, a two-time IndyCar race starter in 2010, confirmed for the opening four rounds, through Barber on April 26 in the sister No. 19 Honda. These two signings complete the expected 24-car field for the season.

Both drivers tested today, although Huertas’ car had the new Honda aero kit while Dracone’s did not, and was running in the base Dallara package.

Coyne expanded on both signings in releases out today from the team.

“Carlos surprised everyone last year with his performance. The effort the team has made over the winter, as shown by our Sebring test with Carlos, gives us confidence for the upcoming season,” Coyne said of Huertas.

As for Dracone, Coyne offered, “Francesco shows great enthusiasm for our sport. We look forward to working with the rookie in preseason testing and early races as he looks to IndyCar for his future.”

Huertas showed flashes of impressive moments during the 2014 season and will look to improve on it this year. He’s the third full-time Colombian in the field, joining Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz.

“I am very happy to be back with the team this year. I expect to have a better year than last year because I obviously have the experience of a full season and winning a race last year,” Huertas said. “That helped a lot for my confidence for this year. The guys did such a great job last year with the car and race strategy that I’m sure we will have a successful year.”

Dracone, the Italian, was less successful in his two starts with Conquest Racing in 2010. Still, he thanked Coyne for the opportunity.

“It is good to be back in America and great to be back in IndyCar,” he said. “I feel that it is the best single seater series for a driver to be in. Working with Dale Coyne is an honor and a privilege because he is one of the most experienced team owners and he runs a great team.”

IndyCar’s season opens March 29 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III