Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull GRC: Post-summer break stretch kicks off in Atlantic City

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After a little more than a month break since its last race in Indianapolis, Red Bull Global Rallycross is back in action this weekend with a doubleheader at Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J.

There’s just five races remaining this season, with Atlantic City and Seattle hosting doubleheader weekends before the season finale in Los Angeles in October. The two Atlantic City Supercars finals air Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, both on NBC, while GRC Lites coverage airs Wednesday, August 23, at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In Supercars, the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross pair of Tanner Foust and Scott Speed continue their duel for the title in the pair of Volkswagen Beetle GRCs. Foust leads Speed, 488-462, heading into the doubleheader weekend. Foust last won race two in Ottawa while Speed took the series’ most recent win in Indianapolis, at the Andretti team’s home base. Speed also won in Atlantic City last year.

Steve Arpin in his Loenbro Motorsports Ford Fiesta ST remains the only other driver in really close title contention, in third place with 455 points. Arpin was on the podium in Atlantic City last year, ending third, and has won twice this weekend.

The Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE contingent fell back in Indianapolis; Mitchell DeJong’s impressive recent string ended with a 10th place classification there and he’s now fourth in points, some 103 points back of Foust.

Similarly, the pair of Subaru Rally Team USA drivers Chris Atkinson and Patrik Sandell look for any sort of result, while RLL Racing’s Austin Dyne has been fifth or sixth in five of the last six races, and will seek to continue his decent run. Bryan Herta Rallysport rookie Cabot Bigham remains in search of his maiden top-five finish in Supercars.

In GRC Lites, Olsbergs MSE X Forces rookie Cyril Raymond enters with a sizable points lead, 475-399, over DirtFish’s Conner Martell with two of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s trio of drivers, Christian Brooks and Travis PeCoy, third and fourth.

Of note here, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun resume for CORE autosport with IMSA off this weekend – they missed Indianapolis as they were on IMSA duty – and 2016 CORE driver Scott Anderson makes his series return in another OMSE X Forces entry.

The 0.902 circuit is one of Red Bull GRC’s longer circuits. You can see a course layout below.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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