INDIANAPOLIS – Once upon a time, Dale Coyne Racing was almost the equivalent to a field fuller or “start and park” on the NASCAR side. No, they didn’t park their cars, but they didn’t have the talent to compete on a regular basis. Instead of having talent, they took drivers as long as they had a check and it cleared. It was a turnstile of head scratching drivers.
Now, the days of “TBA” seem long in the rear view mirror. They’ve not just upgraded, but they’re legitimate contenders on a weekly basis. Take this season for example, before his accident, Sebastien Bourdais was a championship favorite. He started last at St. Pete at won in the season opener. He finished second in the second race of the season.
He had as good of a start as anyone until the first lap Phoenix crash. Then, his engine blew on Lap 3 at the IndyCar Grand Prix. Nevertheless, he was still inside the top 10 of the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings, and if not for his accident in Indy 500 qualifying, he likely would have been way further up in the standings heading to Detroit this weekend. That car he had at Indy was a rocket ship. He was on a qualifying run that would have put him P1 on Saturday, and a shot at what likely would have been the pole on Sunday.
Pole winner Scott Dixon said as much too in his press conference.
That’s 42 extra points that would have come his way.
Then, in the race itself, James Davison who hasn’t made an IndyCar start in two years, started last and was leading laps and in contention to win in the end. Nothing against Davison, as he showed Sunday’s he’s a hell of a driver and deserving of another opportunity in IndyCar, but that car was a road course car with what they said didn’t have much of a shot to contend, and there they were inside of 20 laps-to-go contending for what everyone said wouldn’t happen.
What’s that say?
If that was Bourdais in that car, starting up front, in the oval setup, imagine where he could have finished. Imagine those points, plus the 42 qualifying points, where he would be in the standings heading into Belle Isle, a track where he won with KVSH last year, a track where Conor Daly finished second at in this very car in 2016.
That’s a championship contending car this season.
But, so is Ed Jones’ No. 19 Honda too. He finished third in the Indy 500 and has been stellar all season too. He’s in the top 10 in the points right now and just a few points out of fifth.
Now, due to his injuries, Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda is open for likely most of the season. That’s why whoever Dale Coyne decides to put in there, they have a legitimate shot to rejuvenate a career and contend. This isn’t just a 15th-20th place ride anymore, Bourdais, Davison and Jones have shown that Coyne’s rides are a top five team, one that can win anywhere on any given track or time.
Kudos to Dale on what he’s done to upgrade his team. He’s worthy of all the accomplishments coming his way this season.