Just one month ago, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan appeared to be in complete disarray. Because of changes to its financial backing and changes to the engine lease contract, the team was unable to move forward with longtime driver Sebastien Bourdais.
Despite having a contract for 2020, the four-time Champ Car Series champion was told by team owner Dale Coyne that the team did not have the funding to continue and he was released from the team.
This past Monday, the team lost its top engineer, Craig Hampson, to Arrow McLaren SP.
That is why Thursday’s announcement from the team that Alex Palou of Spain will be the new driver of the No. 18 car in 2020 was so important.
It proved that despite the recent obstacles, team owner Dale Coyne remains a survivor and will continue leading one of the smallest teams in the NTT IndyCar Series into competition.
Palou, a young driver from Spain, was a Super Formula race winner and Rookie of the Year in 2019.
Palou will be vying for Rookie of the Year honors as he takes on the 17-race schedule. The driver from Sant Antoni de Vilamajor had an impressive season in the Japanese Super Formula Series with TCS Nakajima Racing. In addition to finishing as the top rookie, he scored a victory, three pole positions (the most of any competitor that season) and placed third in the Championship. He also drove for Team Goh piloting their McLaren 720S GT3 this past season capturing the pole position during the last round of Super GT series at Twin Ring Motegi by setting a new GT300 class record.
“I’m very excited about coming to America to race Indy cars,” said the 22-year-old driver. “I’m grateful for all that have helped me get to this point of my career and especially Dale Coyne and Mr. Kazumichi Goh for giving me this opportunity.”
The new arrangement will be known as Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh.
“We’re very pleased to partner with our friend of many years Kazumichi Goh in this collaborative effort for 2020,” Coyne said. “We tested Alex at Mid-Ohio earlier this year and he impressed everyone. His rise in performance over the past three years shows great promise for the future.”
Team Goh has a long history in racing. It won the 1996 Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC) and became one of the prestigious Privateer teams to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2004 with Seiji Ara, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello.
“Alex shows great promise and we all are excited to continue our relationship with Alex and to see him progress his career towards the IndyCar series,” said team owner Kazumichi Goh. “It will be an honor to be part of the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and we hope to have the same success we achieved at Le Mans 24hr race with our overall win thanks to great team collaboration between Alex and Dale Coyne Racing.”
Prior to his season in the Super Formula championship, the Spaniard raced in the Japan Formula 3 Championship, finishing third in the year-end standings on the strength of three wins and five pole positions. Before his time in Japan, Palou became the first Spanish racing driver to win a GP3 race when he took the victory at the final round of his debut season in 2015 with Campos Racing.
Palou made the jump from racing karts to cars in 2014 and placed third in the EuroFormula Open Championship and second in the Spanish Formula 3 Championship before his move to GP3 where he spent the next two seasons.
DCR had a test with Palou at Mid-Ohio in July.
The team plans to begin extensive testing in February in preparation for the season opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida on March 15th, 2020.
Dale Coyne Racing will have further details on its complete 2020 program at the beginning of the new year. It currently does not have a signed contract with either Honda or Chevrolet for 2020, but is considering its options.