The Dale Coyne Racing Team head into the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg this weekend with two new drivers on board.
Conor Daly has secured a full time seat with the outfit and will drive the No.18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality and Restaurant Group Honda having raced a part time season last year with outings at the Indianapolis 500 and a stint in the No.5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe.
Speaking ahead of the season opener this weekend, Daly commented by saying:
We made a lot of progress with the #18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality car at the Sebring test last week and we got a lot of work done, a lot of positive stuff. So that’s very encouraging heading into St. Petersburg this week.
“I’m obviously really excited heading into the first race of the season. It’s a big weekend for me, for my family too and everyone that’s been a part of this ride ever since I was a kid, I’m just excited. That’s the word I can use best. Excited and ready to work. We have a big challenge in front of us, it’s going to be a really, really competitive season so we just have to start off on the right foot. I know the team is ready, I know I’m ready and I can’t wait to see how it goes after the first session.
“It’s hard to have expectations. We all want to win, obviously, winning is what we do this for but it’s going to be our first weekend together as a full team and I think expectation wise we’re maybe setting the bar high, but realistically I just want to be able to complete every lap and do the most efficient work possible to start the season off right and get a lot of information for the following races and the rest of the year.
“I love the St. Petersburg track. I think it flows together really well. It has a really good rhythm to it. For a street course that is sometimes rare but it’s a lot of fun. It’s always looked very exciting in an Indy car from a spectator point of view. I’ve always enjoyed driving there, so I’m excited to see how it feels in the big car, especially with more downforce with the new kits and more power from Honda. It will be different, for sure, than the previous categories that I’ve driven but I can only see it getting better in an Indy car!
Luca Filippi will drive the No.19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda having joined Dale Coyne Racing for a full time drive in 2016 having previously driven for CFH Racing in select events in 2015. Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, Filippi commented by saying:
It was nice to test at Sebring last week before starting the season. It was my first time back on a road course in an Indy car since Sonoma last season. We had a very good test and it was a good way to get ready for St. Petersburg. We were mainly focusing on getting a good balance and a good pace. I normally always try to focus on a race pace because if you can be fast and consistent then you have a better chance for a strong result.
“I feel very positive going to St. Petersburg. First of all, Honda have done a good job in providing us with an improved aero kit and more power. I think it will be very competitive between all the teams.
“From the team point of view, I see that Dale Coyne Racing is really motivated to boost the level of the team even more this year, and I think that with myself and Conor we have a good combination and I think we could really get strong results.
“For me personally, I’m more of a street course specialist. I feel like on every street course we go to it can be a good weekend all the time. So, I’m obviously aiming for a solid result because it would be good to start the season scoring some good points. It will be important to have a clean weekend.
“I like the St. Petersburg track. It’s a very unique street course. It’s nice to have a long straight on an airfield. That’s very special and it’s also very long for a street course. We also find many different surfaces in nearly every single corner which makes it very challenging and very special too. Plus, it’s in a very nice location, being by the water.
“Last year was my very first time in St. Pete. I did well, finishing ninth. This year will be to, hopefully, improve on that result. Going to a street course that you know and that you feel you have done well at is always a good thing.