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Dale Coyne Racing caps tumultuous month with addition of Alex Palou as driver

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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.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?