It’s not luck, and it’s certainly not a coincidence. Hard work, mixed with old and new talents, brought Dale Coyne Racing to the forefront of the 106th Indianapolis 500 race.

The fastest speed in each training session before qualifying, the leader in the field shown this week by Takuma Sato and teammate newcomer David Malukas, is a testament to all that the team has achieved since returning to the Indianapolis freeway.

The 2021 season ended only in losses and changes when Ramen Grosjean and leading racing engineer and damper guru Olivier Boisson left No. 51 DCR alongside Rick Weir Racing at Andretti Autosport. DCR’s sister with longtime members Jimmy Wasser and James “Sally” Sullivan has experienced the biggest change of all, as driver Ed Jones was dismissed and the duo of Vasser Sullivan also left the Illinois team.

Faced with another reboot, his signing of 45-year-old Sato, a two-time Indy 500 winner, always paid off as soon as May came. And in another seat, Malukas, a 20-year-old sponge, brought his family’s interest in HMD Trucking / HMD Motorsports to DCR and spent a week following every piece of advice Sato could offer.

Together the duo DCR was a threat to go out in Fast 12, and by the end of Saturday Sato was 12th and Malukas was just embarrassed to move to 13th.

Against the backdrop of another overhaul, the team deserves pride in maintaining its commitment to doing less on the Indy 500. Last year’s race was the first in a long time with only two cars involved; but whenever possible the old DCR ran as many drivers as possible in the previous Indy 500s, often to the detriment of competition. As the number decreased, efficiency increased, and it was here that DCR found the strongest version of itself on Speedway.

David Malukas has so far impressed Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

“I kept preaching about driving two cars,” DCR team manager Terry Brown told RACER. “I am firmly convinced that driving two really good cars suits us better. I think there are some surprises here. We lost Olivier last year, but I think everyone understands how important that is [lead DCR race engineer] Ross Banel. I have said this before: I believe he is a frontier genius. And I think it shows.

Under big engineering names such as Craig Hampson, Michael Cannon and the aforementioned Boisson, Banel was able to learn from some of the best IndyCar before being promoted to racing engineer, and with a runway, it is clear that his ideas served as DC engineers. its comprehensive impact is demonstrated at DCR No.51 Sato from Honda Rick Ware Racing and DCR No.18 Malukasa from HMD Motorsports Honda. When it comes time to start the car, Banela can be found at the 18th booth, and DCR veteran Don Bricker takes care of Sato’s car.

“Ross has really become our engineering leader, and it works very well when Don buys what Ross is trying to do with the team,” Brown said. “Sometimes if you have some really strong engineers, it works against you, but that’s not what we have here. The whole engineering team is all gel. ”

Brown also pays tribute to the men and women of the DCR team who spent an incredible amount of hours making fast cars.

“Now there are a lot of tired people who have done a lot of hard work,” he continued. “Someone worked for me 109 hours a few weeks ago … and this hard work pays off. I didn’t ask him to do that, and I’ll be honest and say he wasn’t happy to hear about 109, but it comes from the fact that they’re trying to do everything they feel to help our team the most. ”

Terry Brown of Dale Coyne Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Motorsport Images)

Returning to DCR drivers, Sato is the best oval racer the team is lucky enough to have in its ranks. Brown admits he was fascinated by how much Sato added to the Indy 500 team’s tutorial in just a few days.

“Certainly we see it in his runs,” he said. “A few days last week he went out early, didn’t do a lot of laps, came back to the garage, came back late in the afternoon, didn’t go a lot of laps and was very fast.

“The fact is that he knows what he needs. He knows what he likes. He knows how to talk to engineers, tell them what he wants. It’s just almost magic as far as he knows and his level of competence. He really has everything together when it comes to understanding what he wants, what the car can and will do.

It took a stormy Saturday before Sato was able to secure a place in Fast 12. Malukas was just 0.102 miles per hour from making the cut, and after another miserable day of running Sato took 10th place in the starting net.

With two of Team Penske’s three drivers behind Sato and Malukas, as well as four of Andretti’s five drivers, all three Rahal Letterman Lanigan drivers, the entire AJ Foyt Racing team and Meyer Shank Racing and others, DCR has proven itself as a two-team car that should fear and respect her Indy 500 competitors.

“I think we’re all pretty comfortable now,” Brown said. “And I think we’re all pretty tired. I hear a lot of moans and groans about how much work everyone has to do, but deep down they are all some of the best riders you will find in the paddock. People know we’re a smaller team, but all our crew they’re doing more to bring us to where we are. But hey, we haven’t won anything yet. We just promised a little bit. ”

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