For Dale Coyne Racing, it was the tale of two troublesome races for each of their Honda drivers in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
After entering the Indianapolis 500 as the third-highest point earner in 2018, a crash in the 500-mile race dropped veteran Sebastien Bourdais all the way to 8th in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Returning to the Detroit Grand Prix for the first time since 2016 due to injury last year, the Frenchman was looking forward to a rebound start to his doubleheader weekend.
Unfortunately that would not come easy Saturday as Bourdais struggled to make inroads on the bumpy Belle Isle street circuit while mustering just a 13th-place finish. The result kept Bourdais 8th in the point standings, now 91 points back of leader Alexander Rossi.
Judging by his comments post-race, a 13th-place run may have actually been a respectable result given the challenges the No. 18 Sealmaster team faced over the 70-lap event.
“It had to be one of the hardest races I have ever done,” Bourdais wagered. “We haven’t found the sweet spot on the setup. We are searching, we are trying things, but (Saturday) afternoon we went backwards.
“I lost the tires very quickly on the first stint with the alternate (Firestone red tires), then I made a mistake and lost two spots. We put on the black (Firestone primary) tires and I had no pace. The car got loose right away.”
Despite the challenges with varying sets of tires, the veteran driver feels like he and his team may have found a bit of grip for Sunday’s second Detroit race.
“The car was just super difficult to drive,” said Bourdais. “We put the front wing down a little bit, that kind of got the car back in the groove at the end, but it was too little too late. The positive is the car is in one piece and we have another go at it (Sunday).”
On the other side of the spectrum for Dale Coyne Racing was Santino Ferrucci, making his maiden start in the Verizon IndyCar Series as he becomes the third different driver to pilot the Coyne No. 19 Honda in 2018.
Ferrucci, 20, showed decent pace and persistence at times but admittedly struggled to keep speed when the team asked him to fuel save during Saturday’s race.
The Haas F1 reserve driver was finding his edge just as the race began to wind down when veteran Carlin driver Charlie Kimball drove through the young American and sent Ferrucci hard into the tire barrier at Turn 7.
The incident occurred with just 15 laps remaining.
“The No. 19 Paysafe, Cly-Del Dale Coyne Racing car was absolutely amazing,” and excited Ferrucci said after the race. “We had a fantastic balance coming out of qualifying. All the engineers did a fantastic job sorting the car out for me during the race. Once I figured out how to fuel save better, we picked up massive time and we were doing a really good job.
“We were in great shape to get a potential top 10 finish for my first outing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, so it’s disappointing to get run over like that, but that’s racing and we’ll come back stronger tomorrow.”
While he is lacking in experience, Ferrucci didn’t lack poise while handling the incident better than the veteran Kimball did, who tweeted out a back-handed comment after the race.
Both Dale Coyne Racing drivers will get another shot at the Detroit Grand Prix this afternoon when the green flag flies on race number two at 3:50 p.m. Eastern, though they will have another tough road ahead after their qualifying results.
Ferrucci lead the duo with a respectable 13th-place starting position, which was three spots better than his teammate Sebastien Bourdais who qualified 16th.
The rookie outpaced notables Bourdais, Matheus Leist, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan.
The race can be seen live on ABC, which will be its final Verizon IndyCar Series broadcast for the foreseeable future, as well as on the IndyCar Radio Network.