Photo courtesy Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

IndyCar: Jimmy Vasser, James Sullivan join with Dale Coyne Racing to form new team

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After a one-year absence away from IndyCar racing, Jimmy Vasser is back.

Vasser and former partner James Sullivan have joined forces with Dale Coyne to form Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. They will campaign the No. 18 Honda with driver Sebastien Bourdais.

“I took a year off from competition for the first time in many years and realized how much I missed it,” Vasser said in a media release. “This is the next chapter in my racing career, so I want to say thank you to Sully, Dale, SealMaster, our sponsors and Sebastien.

“With their support we are focused on re-creating our prior success and again challenging for wins in 2018.”

The No. 18 team will be sponsored for nine of the 17 Verizon IndyCar Series season races by SealMaster. Sponsorship for the other eight races is to be announced.

SealMaster will serve as primary sponsor for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 11. Bourdais is the defending winner of that race.

The other eight races SealMaster will serve as primary sponsor will be Alabama, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, both races in Detroit, Road America, Pocono and Gateway.

SealMaster will serve as associate sponsor for the other eight IndyCar races on the schedule.

Vasser and Sullivan previously were partners in KV Racing Technology and KVSH Racing, which won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with Tony Kanaan and won five more races from 2014 through 2016 with Bourdais as its driver.

The team folded before last season when their third partner, Kevin Kalkhoven, discontinued his involvement in IndyCar racing.

“When Jimmy, Sulli and I met to discuss creating this partnership, it was very enticing,” Coyne said in a media release. They’ve had a lot of success in their previous years in IndyCar and I’m thrilled to have them as partners.

“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down as we move forward with this program. The future is bright and we’re excited to get the season going.”

Meanwhile, Dale Coyne Racing will campaign the No. 19 Honda. No driver nor sponsor has been named yet, even though the team was among several other teams that practiced Monday at Sonoma Raceway.

Behind the wheel Monday in the No. 19 was Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Formula One and CART champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

Bourdais also took part in the test with the No. 18. He is entering his 13th IndyCar season, his third with Dale Coyne Racing and his first under the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan.

He won a record four consecutive IndyCar championships from 2004 through 2007, and is tied for second on the all-time championships list with Mario Andretti and Dario Franchitti.

Bourdais, 36, of France has made 171 career starts and earned 36 wins and 33 poles.

“Over the last few years we’ve all captured poles and won races together,” Bourdais said. “This is a team that started small, but what we needed and now have collectively a consistent program from top-to-bottom that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship.”

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

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