We are deadlocked. Both engine manufacturers in IndyCar have three wins under their belt this season. With the most recent win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway going to Honda, and the Verizon IndyCar Series back at a street circuit this weekend for two races, we could either split the difference and leave here 4-and-4, or Honda can work with keeping the momentum going from the Indianapolis 500, and get ahead in the count. Given their strength on this track format in 2017, it would appear to be a feasible goal.
One big change since St. Petersburg and Long Beach though… Sebastien Bourdais isn’t here to assist with getting the reigns back for Honda’s hands. I think it’s safe to say that we were all gutted for not just Bourdais, but for Coyne, when the No. 18 needed to be filled after Bourdais’ injury during Indy 500 qualifications.. Filling this seat was an unexpected necessity in the midst of a season where DCR has found such success early on.
Gutierrez has a long racing resume, having worked his way up and around in multiple European series, most recently noted with Formula 1 for Sauber, Ferrari (reserve) and Haas. He is currently racing in Formula E for select races, and has hopes of a full-time ride in 2018. His focus on where he wants that full-time ride though, might be shifting to IndyCar.
Gutierrez spoke to media this morning about his initial impression of the IndyCar series, revealing that he’s followed the series for quite some time and after seeing some of the races we’ve had in Mexico and the drivers from Mexico that raced in the series in the past, he feels very honored to represent his home country and to be working with the Dale Coyne Racing family. He spoke about his respect for Bourdais as well,
“Sebastien Bourdais, I was following from my karting days. At those times, he was basically dominating Champ Car. it’s very special to come here to be in his seat, and obviously he’s a really good reference. He’s a fantastic driver. I spoke to him this morning, and he gave me a few tips here and there of how to approach the weekend. I’m working very well with his engineers. That gives me a lot of confidence because to come here with a good team, you start already on a good side.”
Gutierrez went on to confess that he didn’t have to think twice when he got the call from Dale about racing at Belle Isle. The hope is that he can do the remainder of the season, or until Bourdais is ready to return. He said they are doing their best to get all of that organized. When asked to expand on his experience thus far in IndyCar and with Dale Coyne Racing in comparison to his Formula 1 career, he explained,
“Yes, it’s pure racing. It’s really special to come here. You have the car with no power steering, pretty much open to adjust anything you want. So the communication with the engineers becomes even more important. In Formula 1 it’s a lot about fine tuning during the weekend. Obviously you can develop a lot in the medium- to long-term. But in difference to an IndyCar, you have basically everything open, from the gears, downforce levels, mechanical changes, differential changes, ride height, caster, so many tools you can work with, which is pretty interesting.”
Gutierrez gave off a very genuine positivity and excitement in being here. His words were not empty, and that really made me feel good about having him in the paddock. He’s already invested.
The promise shown by the team is also apparent in young talent, Ed Jones. The only full-season rookie in the field made his debut with a P10 finish in St. Pete, and most recently finished on the Indianapolis 500 podium. His potential for ‘phenom’ status is staring all of us in the face, so anyone that seems surprised when this kid ends up with a win no later than his sophomore season is simply not paying attention.
Dale Coyne Racing has been “the little engine that could” for as long as I can remember. They are starting to regularly shed that coat and stand tall as a series competitor. I hope to see that continue this year and grow even stronger in the years to come. With drivers like Bourdais, Jones, and the new addition of Gutierrez, I’d say those odds are definitely in Coyne’s favor.
Feature photo credit: Chris Jones
In-post photo credit: Bret Kelley, Chris Owens / IndyCar