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Santino Ferrucci returns to Dale Coyne Racing, takes vacant No. 18 seat

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Santino Ferrucci will return to Dale Coyne Racing this season, and now will pilot the Vasser-Sulivan entry previously occupied by Sebastien Bourdais.

The Connecticut native will be promoted to the No. 18 Sealmaster Honda this year, as IndyCar rookie Alex Palou will take over driving duties in the team’s No. 19 entry.

“I’m extremely honored that Dale, Jimmy [Vasser], and Sulli [James Sullivan] have put their faith in me to carry this program forward,” Ferrucci said. “The SealMaster car has had a lot of success in the past two seasons. I’m eager to move into the No. 18 car and get spring training started.”

Ferrucci made his IndyCar debut for Coyne in 2018. He competed in his first full-time season with the team last year, where he had a trio of fourth-place finishes and also won “Rookie of the Year” honors in his maiden Indy 500.

“We’re very happy to have Santino back with us for the 2020 season,” said Dale Coyne. “He had a very good rookie season and he was absolutely stellar on the ovals. We look forward to him building on that this year.

“I think he surprised a lot of people in 2019 and he has the potential to do even better in his sophomore year as he now moves to the No. 18 car.”

With Ferrucci and Palou both 21 and 22-years-old, respectively, Coyne’s 2020 lineup will feature two of the many young IndyCar stars to have joined the series within the past few years.

The duo will join Arrow McLaren’s Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta as 2020 IndyCar rookies or sophomores under the age of 25.

“This new crop of young fast IndyCar racers is no joke, and we’re energized to have Ferrucci leading our charge in the SealMaster machine,” said James Sullivan. “I expect you’ll see some big moments from us in 2020.”

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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?