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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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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.