Bourdais could surprise at Coyne. Photo: IndyCar

IndyCar 2017 team preview: Dale Coyne Racing

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MotorSportsTalk looks through the teams competing in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Dale Coyne Racing is next up, with a completely new lineup, a couple new engineers, and a lot of preseason optimism.

Drivers (Engineer, Strategist)

18-Sebastien Bourdais (Craig Hampson, Darren Crouser)
19-Ed Jones (Michael Cannon, Dale Coyne)

Manufacturer/aero kit: Honda

Sponsors: Sonny’s BBQ (No. 18), Boy Scouts of America (No. 19)

What went right in 2016: In Conor Daly and a rotation of young drivers in the second car, Coyne had enthusiasm about the future for a change, and some very well-executed strategic plays to produce a lot of laps led and both top-five and top-10 finishes. RC Enerson impressed in his three starts more than the better known Luca Filippi and Gabby Chaves in their combined 12 races.

What went wrong in 2016: There were a few too many mistakes and missed opportunities when they presented themselves. But it was still a noticeable improvement over 2015.

What’s changed for 2017: There’s two new drivers and two new engineers, but all have significant upside. Sebastien Bourdais’ ability to overachieve has been found in spades in recent years and now he’s got both his old engineers from Newman/Haas (Hampson) and KVSH (Olivier Boisson) on one box. Ed Jones steps up to IndyCar from Indy Lights and will have to learn quickly, but is talented enough to be up to the task. The program was settled by November, a welcome change.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: The paddock expects a better effort from Coyne this year and on paper the well-rounded team from north of Chicago looks to deliver it. Bourdais can win at least one if not multiple races while Jones is this year’s “look for him to snatch a surprise podium on that typically brilliant Coyne strategy” driver. Bourdais can contend for a mid-to-low top-10 points finish while if Jones can finish in the top-15 in points as a rookie, he’ll have done a great job.

Jones steps up to IndyCar in 2017. Photo: IndyCar
Jones steps up to IndyCar in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

MST PREDICTIONS

Tony DiZinno: Rare are the words “expect Coyne to win at least once, possibly twice” typed, but they are deserved of being written going into 2017. Bourdais has won at least once each of the last three years at KVSH and should do so once more this year, with a top-10 points finish possible if multiple cards fall right. For Jones, one or two “big” results and season-long consistency should be achievable based on his track record in Indy Lights.

Kyle Lavigne: It’s hard to label 2016 as a year of “what might have been” Dale Coyne Racing. They led laps, showed surprising speed (they finished better than sixth on four separate occasions, even collecting a podium), and proved masters of strategy. Yet, they left some results on the table, chiefly at St. Pete and Road America.

With that in mind, 2017 has the makings of a strong season for Dale Coyne Racing. Even though new drivers and new engineers are in play, chemistry should not be a big concern. Sebastien Bourdais and Craig Hampson were a part of the Newman/Haas freight train that decimated all comers in the Champ Car World Series between 2004 and 2007. As Tony indicated, Bourdais has won at least once in each of the last years and he has all the potential to continue that streak in 2017. For Ed Jones, the year will be about learning the series and cars, so expectations will be more modest. Occasionally challenging to move past the first round of qualifying and finishing races in the top ten would be a massive success.

Luke Smith: The instability of recent years now banished, Dale Coyne Racing heads into 2017 looking to deliver on the burgeoning potential we have seen flashes of. Sebastien Bourdais is a big, big signing, such is his experience in IndyCar. Three wins in the past two years shows he still has what it takes to battle at the front, and if the cards fall right for Coyne at some point this year, expect SeaBass to capitalize.

Ed Jones arrives after winning the Indy Lights title last year, and should be chasing rookie of the year honors. A podium would be a good gain for the youngster in his first IndyCar campaign.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.