Vautier delivers career-best result, season-best for Coyne in P4 on Sunday

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Both driver and team needed this one.

For Tristan Vautier, who’s had a roller coaster season of would-be, not-quite or last-minute opportunities and for Dale Coyne Racing, which has had a rotating driver lineup through either of its two full-time cars, fourth place in Sunday’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans second race of the weekend served as a tonic to what’s been a challenging 2015.

Vautier ended 17th in Saturday’s race one after qualifying an impressive 11th.

Sunday’s race two saw the grid set on entrant points, which meant Vautier lined up 23rd and last in the race in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

But from the back, through fuel strategy and patient, aggressive driving, he moved into the top 10 in the latter stages of the race. Vautier chose his times to attack wisely and, late in the race, passed series veterans Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan en route to a fourth place finish, a career-best.

Vautier’s previous career-best finish was 10th at Barber, his second race in the series, in 2013.

Each of the top four drivers were on the same fuel strategy and Vautier ended just behind podium finishers Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal.

“It’s pretty amazing having been out of an IndyCar for a year and a half, then coming back and finishing fourth,” Vautier told MotorSportsTalk post-race.

“Hats off to the team. They made the perfect calls on strategy and it really paid off. The car was really good.

“It was chaos out there, but you could not be too conservative because if you were you’d get passed by everyone. It was a fine line to find between aggressive and keeping the car in one piece. A big thanks to Dale Coyne for having me drive this weekend. I hope we can do more together.”

To give an idea of how challenging a year, results-wise, it’s been for Coyne, both Vautier’s 11th place start in race one and fourth place finish in race two are the best results of the year by significant margins.

The P11 start marks the best grid position for a Coyne car all year; the previous best was 21st (Conor Daly and Rodolfo Gonzalez in Round 3, then Round 4), although Carlos Huertas and Vautier had qualified a respectable 18th and 21st of 33 in Indianapolis 500 time trials. Neither car started from their qualified position due to driver changes before the race.

Finishing-wise, not only was Vautier’s result the first top-five and top-10 of the season, but the first top-15. Huertas’ 16th at NOLA Motorsports Park had been the best result, although even that one could have ended on the podium thanks again to some good strategy from the pit box. Daly’s 17th at Long Beach a week later, on short fill-in notice, was arguably the most impressive 17th place finish in recent memory.

The result is Coyne’s first top-10 since Justin Wilson finished ninth at Sonoma last year, and first top-five since Huertas’ win at Houston race one last year.

While not confirmed yet for Texas, expect Vautier to be back next week.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change