At the end of 2020 and 21, Dale Coyne Racing-Honda lost its star rookies Alex Palou and Romain Grosjean to Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport respectively. Team owner Dale Coyne is keen that this doesn’t happen to last year’s Indy Lights runner-up David Malukas, who is just four points behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard in Rookie of the Year standings.
He is also keen to keep 45-year-old Sato, driver of the #51 Coyne w/Rick Ware Racing car, who he says has brought a great deal of knowledge and oval pace to both the DCR team and his young teammate Has.
“We have contracts for David and Takuma for next year so I’m 99 percent sure they’re both staying,” Coyne told Motorsport.com. “Their contracts are different because if Takuma wanted to retire at the end of this year, he can; but if he stays with IndyCar, he has to stay with us. David only has a regular two-year contract.
“But Takuma is as excited about IndyCar as ever – I think he has a few more years left. He was very quick in Texas and Detroit, which are obviously very different tracks, and he was fastest in all practice sessions at Indy. And obviously David did a great job.
“We haven’t done it yet in terms of results – we don’t have a win or a podium. But I think we have the potential to get both onto the podium before the end of the year. I give David a lot of credit for his speed compared to Takuma and for listening to and learning from the voices of experience around him, but I also give Takuma a lot of credit for keeping up with a young and hungry newcomer. He gives 100 percent, is open to our ideas and David’s set-ups, even at his age. And he helped David a lot, especially on the ovals.”
Coyne admitted his crew members “need to get better at pit stops” so given this, expanding to a three-car operation for 2023 would seem difficult given the lack of experienced engineers and crew members.
“Yes, it’s difficult, but I would say now is a good time,” Coyne explained, “because 2024 [with the new 2.4-liter with hybrid engines introduced] a different technical level will be required. So why not get our people together now and stick together as a three car team to be better prepared for 2024?
“Remember that running extra cars and integrating everything is about people. We have people who want to come here, drivers who want to come here.”
When asked if he would be looking for another youngster or a series veteran, Coyne said, “Probably a rookie; we like rookies.”
HMD Motorsports, owned by Malukas’ father Henry, who owns the Indy Lights team and with whom Coyne is now partnering for the #18 IndyCar and Lights car, has suitable candidates for 2023 and beyond. The most obvious is Linus Lundqvist, who won the 2020 Formula Regionals America title, finished third in last year’s Lights championship behind Kyle Kirkwood and Malukas and is leading the 2022 Lights points race.
“Sure, Lundqvist is the obvious one,” said Coyne. “He was fast, takes care of his car, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
He added that he was less interested in bringing engineers from Lights to IndyCar “at least for now” and would instead be looking to production veterans to fill the roles within the team and specifically fill the engineering/crew lineup for the third car.