NBC Sports takes a look through the teams competing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. IndyCar lifer Dale Coyne presses on once again, and probably has his best two-car lineup in close to a decade.
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Engines/aero kits: Honda
Sponsors: Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality & Restaurant Group/Cancer Treatment Centers of America (No. 18), Boy Scouts of America/Sonny’s BBQ (No. 19)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 434 (Vautier 172, Gonzalez 94, Mann 76, Dracone 38, Huertas 31, Daly 13, Davison 10, Moran Jr. 0)
Laps Led: 15 (Vautier 10, Gonzalez 5)
Championship Position: 22nd (Vautier), 26th (Gonzalez), 28th (Daly), 29th (Mann), 34th (Dracone), 36th (Huertas), 38th (Davison), 40th (Moran Jr.)
2016 LINEUP (Engineers in parentheses)
18 Conor Daly (Michael Cannon)
19 Luca Filippi (Kyle Brannan)
Eight drivers, zero podiums, multiple crew members being hit on pit road and a highest finishing driver of 22nd in points means 2015 was a tough year for Dale Coyne Racing. There were highlights, though: Tristan Vautier had standout drives in Detroit race two and Mid-Ohio; Vautier and Rodolfo Gonzalez brought second half stability after all eight of the drivers were in Coyne’s two cars in the opening six races through May; Pippa Mann finished all three 500-mile races with the car in one piece and brought positive attention to the program through her work with Susan G. Komen; and Conor Daly delivered arguably the best 17th place finish in recent memory on extremely short notice in Long Beach.
The old college basketball tournament saying “survive and advance” applies to teams that don’t have their best games but manage to win anyway and move onto the next round. That’s the term that best applies to Coyne, which after 30 years in the sport keeps on ticking and has survived a year with eight different drivers and advanced into what should be a significantly better 2016. Although losing Vautier costs them continuity, Daly and Filippi will be fine provided they’re in for the full season. Additionally, Bryan Clauson is already confirmed and Mann all-but-officially confirmed to join them at the Indianapolis 500.
In Daly, they have a determined young charger who’s been waiting his whole life for a full-season IndyCar opportunity. He gets it thanks to Jonathan Byrd’s stepping up to the plate, and he’s got a perfect tutor in Cannon. In Filippi, who as of this writing still wasn’t officially confirmed for the full season (it is the second Coyne car, after all), they have a road course ace high on speed and even higher on setup feedback. In the last decade, the only real Coyne full-season lineups with this much potential were Bruno Junqueira/Katherine Legge in 2007 in Champ Car and the late Justin Wilson and James Jakes in 2012 in IndyCar. A win courtesy of a trademark Coyne strategic masterstroke would not be a surprise, with podiums possible on merit and a top-15 finish in points a realistic target for either driver.