Coyne’s Sunday at NOLA ends with missed podium shot, crewmember hit in pits


AVONDALE, La. – In strategy-based and/or timed races in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Dale Coyne Racing generally stands out as one of the teams to watch.

A strategic masterstroke from the pit wall put Carlos Huertas into position to win in Houston last year, and the Colombian rookie held the field off for a surprise but still well-executed first career victory.

So go figure Sunday at NOLA Motorsports Park, for the series’ inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, DCR was in contention despite a last-place starting position.

Huertas, in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, ran second on an off-sequence strategy late in the eventual 47-lap, 105-minute race, before a spin under the fourth full course caution on Lap 36 put him back in the order.

The series sophomore finished 16th, and rued a missed opportunity.

“It’s my mistake,” Huertas told MotorSportsTalk. “I didn’t go massively fast. It was just the way the car was placed when I touched the throttle, but I lost it.

“For sure I lost a podium today. Maybe the win, I don’t know. It’s my mistake. I’m really sorry to the team.”

Coyne’s team also made headlines during the race for the wrong reasons when the team’s second car, driven by Francesco Dracone, contacted crewmember Todd Phillips entering the pits.

Phillips, Dracone’s crew chief and outside front tire changer, was being treated in care center for a cut to lower right leg.

Former DCR driver Justin Wilson provided an update on Phillips later Sunday night, saying he should be relatively OK.

Dracone’s pit contact capped off a challenging weekend where he spun multiple times in practice and also made contact with Helio Castroneves following a restart.