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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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Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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