IndyCar: Dale Coyne Racing 2018 Review

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Editor’s note: MotorSportsTalk continues to review how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also takes a look ahead to 2019.

Thus far we have featured Juncos RacingMeyer Shank RacingCarlin Racing, Harding Racing, AJ Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan.

Today we feature Dale Coyne Racing. 

Dale Coyne Racing 2018 IndyCar review:

Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda featured three drivers in 2018: Pietro Fittipaldi, Zachary Claman De Melo, and Santino Ferrucci. Ferrucci later piloted the No. 39 Honda in the final two races of the season.

A rotation of drivers for Coyne’s team has at times been the norm, though Fittipaldi’s leg injuries forced an increase in the number of drivers in the 2018 lineup – he and Claman De Melo were originally slated to share the ride, and Ferrucci was added after Fittipaldi’s injury.

Still, all three young drivers – Fittipaldi is the oldest at the age of 22 – showed promise in their first IndyCar ventures and all three could return in 2019 in varying capacities.

Pietro Fittipaldi

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Team: Dale Coyne Racing, No. 19 Paysafe Honda
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 26th
2018 final stats: 6 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
2018 best race finish: 9th (Portland)

SEASON WRAPUP: Fittipaldi’s year was defined by his comeback from the devastating leg fractures he suffered back in May. Though he planned to run in the Indianapolis 500, he needed to put those plans on hold as he recovered.

He returned to race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, albeit in a lot of pain, but he did score his first career top 10 at Portland International Raceway in the second-to-last race of the year.

It was a strong way to end a tough first season, though he demonstrated a lot of mettle in coming back so soon from the leg injuries.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: A return to IndyCar is possible, and a full-season is ideal, though that obviously comes down to funding. He also could have his sights set on his Indy 500 debut after missing out in 2018.

QUOTE (following his Mid-Ohio comeback, where he finished 23rd): “Obviously I feel tired. It’s my first race back and it’s a tough one at Mid-Ohio. It’s really physically demanding here. We started the race and we didn’t have that much pace at first in our No. 19 Paysafe car, so we ended up pitting early, and then I had to let the leaders go by, so we lost a lot of time there. That said, I finished the race and that was my goal with my leg still hurting a bit. It’s still healing. I’m sure that by the time we get to our next road course in Portland, we’ll be a lot better and I’ll be back at a 100 percent, but I’m happy I was able to come here and finish the race. Now we can focus on our upcoming tests and our next race.”

 

Zachary Claman De Melo

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Team: Dale Coyne Racing, No. 19 Paysafe Honda
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 23rd
2018 final stats: 9 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 12th (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course)

SEASON WRAPUP: Though another year in Indy Lights would’ve likely helped his development, Claman De Melo’s debut IndyCar season was a solid one in which he got better at seemingly every event.

He particularly excelled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, both on the road course (where he finished a season-best 12th) and in the Indy 500, where he qualified a strong 13th on debut. He also was battling inside the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway before he crashed out with Will Power.

Claman DeMelo is still rough around the edges, but he held a nice account for himself in the nine races in which he ran.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Assuming he returns in 2019, Claman DeMelo will look to improve on his 2018 effort and battle for top 10s.

QUOTE (following Toronto, his last race of 2018, where he finished 14th): “It was a fun race, we had quite a bit of yellow today and I think that helped us with our pit strategy. I let the race come to us, and I didn’t take any unnecessary chances in my No. 19 Paysafe car. A lot of people had different issues and I stayed out of trouble and it led to a decent finish. It’s been a fun season and I want to thank Dale Coyne Racing and Paysafe for giving me the opportunity to do these nine races with them this year. Now I get to cheer on Pietro (Fittipaldi) when he comes back for the next race.”

 

Santino Ferrucci

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Team: Dale Coyne Racing, No. 19 Paysafe Honda (Detroit); No. 39 Cly-Del Honda (Portland, Sonoma)
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 23rd
2018 final stats: 4 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 11th (Sonoma Raceway)

SEASON WRAPUP: Ferrucci broke into IndyCar at the Detroit double-header, but then found himself in career saving mode after being unceremoniously released from his Formula 2 ride with Trident.

He then contested the final two events of the year, and showed great potential. Most importantly, he kept his nose clean and has begun rebuilding a reputation that took a massive hit after his F2 ousting.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Wherever Ferrucci lands in 2019, he’ll need to continue rebuilding his career. More efforts like the one he put forth in the final two races, where he showed promising speed and ran a pair of clean races, would go a long way in that front.

QUOTE (following Sonoma, where he finished 11th): “That was probably the most difficult race of my career. I can’t thank my No. 39 Cly-Del crew enough for giving us what was an unbelievable race car. We drove 85 laps with a throttle to fuel system error that not only made us use excessive fuel, but I also had to figure out how to ‘re-drive’ the car using the clutch in the slow corners because the engine wouldn’t idle. The team also did an awesome job with the pit stops, I really wish we got that T\top 10 but this felt like a bit of a win for us today.”

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Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.