Thursday, March 19, 2015

2015 Verizon IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview: Dale Coyne Racing

This is the preview you have all been waiting for. One of four teams to win in each season of the DW12-era, Dale Coyne Racing returns with a Dream Team driver line-up. I am sorry. I just can't keep up the sarcasm. We all know this will be painful. Let's just get this over with.

2014 Dale Coyne Racing Review:
Wins: 1 (Houston 1).
Poles: 0
Best Start: 6th (Houston 2).
Final Championship Position: 15th (Justin Wilson), 20th (Carlos Huertas), 33rd (Pippa Mann).

2015 Drivers:

Carlos Huertas
The Colombian took a surprise victory in the wet at Houston 1 and became the first driver born in the 1990s to win in IndyCar. His car was found to have violated IndyCar's rulebook with an illegal fuel cell and illegal rear wing height in Houston 1. He finished eighth at Belle Isle 1 and tenth at Long Beach. Outside of those three races, Huertas averaged a finish of 17.8 in the other 15 races. His lone top ten starting position was tenth at Mid-Ohio. Huertas did complete all 200 laps on his Indianapolis 500 debut and finished 17th, the fourth-best of seven rookies.

Numbers to Remember: 2. Amount of times Huertas retired from a race due to illness. First at Iowa, then at Fontana.

18.058. Huertas' average starting position in 2014, the worst of all full-time drivers.

11. Finishes on the lead lap for Huertas in 2014, tied for tenth most with Sébastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson. He had more lead lap finishes than Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Jack Hawksworth, Josef Newgarden, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal.

Predictions/Goals: Huertas needs to improve on ovals. He didn't seem comfortable on them and it showed at Fontana. While never being the man to beat at any race or session, Huertas run competent times and brought the car home in one piece. You can't rule him out for getting a top ten finish or two but don't hold your breath on him winning a race in 2015. A top ten finish or two won't be enough for Huertas to break into the top fifteen of the championship let along the top ten. Expect him to finish in the cellar once again.

Francesco Dracone
The 31-year old Italian returns to IndyCar just four years after his last appearance in IndyCar driving for Conquest Racing. Dracone has been signed on for the first four races of the 2015 season. He spent the last four seasons running in Auto GP.

Numbers to Remember: 106. Dracone has made 106 starts over his 13-year career between Italian Formula Three, Euroseries 3000/Auto GP, Superstars Series and IndyCar.

2. Dracone made two IndyCar starts in 2010 driving for Conquest Racing.

21. Dracone's average finish in his two IndyCar starts. He finished 22nd at Mid-Ohio and 20th at Sonoma.

0. Victories in Dracone's 13-year career.

0. Pole positions in Dracone's 13-year career.

0. Podiums in Dracone's 13-year career.

0. Fastest laps in Dracone's 13-year career.

2.83. As in 2.83%. The percentage of races Dracone has finished in the top five. Just to be clear, that's three top fives out of 106 starts.

5. Dracone's best finish in his career is 5th.

1988. Amount of days between Dracone's last top five finish and St. Petersburg. He finished fifth at Monza in Euroseries 3000 on October 18, 2009.

Predictions/Goals: I don't expect Dracone's four races to be pretty but he might break the top twenty if he stays out of harms way, keeps the car out of the barriers and a handful of drivers retire after contact or mechanical failures.

A few Thanksgivings ago my brother came to dinner with a woman no one in my family had ever met. She walked in with a beer in hand, already halfway through the bottle. She proceeded to talk about every inappropriate topic, continue to get hammered and ultimately fell asleep in my parent's basement. All I could do was look at my brother and think to myself, "what was he thinking?" Dale Coyne reminds me a lot of my brother. Every time he accepts a check from a driver of this caliber, what is he thinking? To be fair, Coyne and IndyCar as a whole has done a great job of not giving clearly under qualified drivers rides in the DW-12 era but just two years ago Justin Wilson finished sixth in the championship and Mike Conway won a race for Coyne. This is a team that can compete with the big boys but not with the set of drivers who are currently renting seats from DCR.

IndyCar needs to work with the teams to make sure the likes of Justin Wilson, Conor Daly, Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servià, James Davison, Davide Valsecchi, Jean-Éric Vergne and Dean Stoneman all get seats over the likes of Francesco Dracone. When you have 32-40 drivers trying to fill 22-24 full-time seats, IndyCar needs to make sure they get as close to the best 22-24 drivers available. IndyCar has been too hands off in with whom the teams hire. If money is the only difference between Justin Wilson being on the grid and Francesco Dracone on the grid, IndyCar needs to get involved and not fund the ride out of their own pockets but work to get Coyne an actual sponsor to put their decals all over the car. It's a win-win-win. Dale Coyne gets money to run a team. Dale Coyne can now hire a respectable driver such as Justin Wilson. IndyCar gets to keep a quality driver on the grid and another sponsor in the sport, which they can form a partnership with.

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons gets underway on Sunday March 29th. ABC's coverage will begin at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET.