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Coyne’s pair advances to Q2 for first time in two years at Toronto

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TORONTO – When you’re an admitted stat nerd and have once been called “a warehouse of useless information” by a PR colleague – I think it’s a compliment, or at least I’m telling myself it is – you live for moments like what Dale Coyne Racing’s pair of drivers delivered Saturday in qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (2:30 p.m. ET, CNBC).

After Conor Daly and Luca Filippi were third and fifth in their group (Q1, Group 1), and thus both of them had advanced into Q2, I figured it’d had been a while since both Coyne Hondas had done so.

Thanks to my trusty Excel spreadsheet database, my suspicions were proven correct – the last time this happened was in the pre-aero kit era in the Verizon IndyCar Series when the late, great Justin Wilson and then-teammate Carlos Huertas, better known as “Grumpy Cat,” qualified eighth and 10th at Mid-Ohio… in 2014.

In fact, last year the Coyne team only made it out of Q1 once all season – when Tristan Vautier qualified 11th at Detroit, race one.

This year it’s become a somewhat more regular occurrence with Filippi starting 12th twice, then Daly adding the team’s to-date best qualifying run of ninth at Road America.

Daly in Q2 then ended seventh in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda, thus proving the team had made significant strides since Friday’s practice, while Filippi was 11th in the No. 19 IMPCO ComfortPro Honda. The Italian was not happy with himself for his performance and Daly, the American who’s punched above his weight more often than not this year, was perhaps happy to be in a position where he’d only just come up short of his first Firestone Fast Six appearance.

“It’s great to start seventh tomorrow! It’s our best starting position of the year. It feels great to be fighting for that top six and fighting right at the front of the Honda pack,” Daly said.

“It’s a little painful, and it a bit of shame, to be knocked out of the Firestone Fast Six by Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) but because it’s him it’s fine, he’s the hometown hero. I’m just happy with the progress that we’ve made. We keep improving from race to race and that’s what we have to keep doing. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Filippi added, “It’s a good team result but I’m not happy for myself because I could have done much better and possibly been more or less where Conor (Daly) is but we caught a train of traffic that came out in front of me and with these tires you can’t afford too many laps on those. That said, the potential is good so we can do well and better in the race. We just have to watch out for the start tomorrow and from there we can work our way up and have a strong race.”

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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