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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

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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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Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett proclaims Monday ‘Scott Dixon Day’

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IndyCar media release:

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, Sept. 24, 2018) – Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has declared today, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, “Scott Dixon Day” in the city to honor the IndyCar driver’s great accomplishments.

According to the proclamation, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m., Dixon, an Indianapolis resident, is being honored for his legendary racing career, which includes winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500 in 2008 and five Verizon IndyCar Series championships. Dixon won his fifth championship on Sept. 16 at Sonoma Raceway in California. With that fifth title, the 38-year-old New Zealand native is second in total number of Indy car championships behind only A.J. Foyt.

The proclamation honors Dixon on the same day as the world premiere of the documentary, “BORN RACER,” at the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum. The film, which takes an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at Dixon’s 2017 racing season, will be available nationwide on DVD and digital download on Oct. 2. For more information about “BORN RACER,” visit bornracermovie.com.

INDYCAR is using the hashtags #DixonDay and #BornRacerMovie on its social platforms to highlight the landmark day for the five-time champion.

The proclamation of “Scott Dixon Day” from Mayor Hogsett reads:

TO ALL WHOM THESE PRESENTS MAY COME, GREETINGS:

WHEREAS, Scott Dixon, a native of New Zealand, brought his racing talents to Indianapolis 20 years ago, where he still lives with his wife, Emma, and their two daughters Poppy and Tilly; and

WHEREAS, in 2008, Scott won the 92nd Indianapolis 500 from pole position, and throughout his impressive career, he has won 44 IndyCar races, placing him third on the all-time IndyCar wins list; and

WHEREAS, on September 16, 2018 in Sonoma, California, Scott made history when he won his fifth IndyCar championship, becoming the runner-up for total number of IndyCar championships behind the legendary A.J. Foyt. He is also the longest-tenured driver to compete for the Chip Ganassi Racing team, completing his 17th season with the team in 2018; and

WHEREAS, today, the City of Indianapolis celebrates Scott Dixon’s growing list of racing accomplishments with the world premiere of “Born Racer,” a documentary about his career and the Chip Ganassi Racing team, at the Indiana State Museum, and we honor Scott for his incomparable accomplishments in racing;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH H. HOGSETT, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM SEPTEMBER 24, 2018 TO BE: SCOTT DIXON DAY in the City of Indianapolis, and I ask all citizens to join me in this observation.