- Filippi to pilot #19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q car in St. Petersburg -
Plainfield, IL (March 8, 2016) – Dale Coyne Racing kicks off its 32nd year of competition this week at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening round of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
The team has been busy in preparation for the 2016 campaign, contesting the recent oval test in advance of IndyCar’s return to Phoenix this year and recently completing a one-day test at Sebring International Raceway with drivers Conor Daly and Luca Filippi.
The test was a good end to a productive off-season and offered an encouraging look at what’s to come for the Honda-powered Dale Coyne Racing squad.
Sunday’s start will mark the first IndyCar Series race for Daly on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. However, the driver of the #18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality & Restaurant Group car is no stranger to the St. Petersburg course, having raced there in Indy Lights and the Star Mazda Championship in the past.
Starting his first full season in the IndyCar Series this year, Daly previously won in St. Petersburg in Star Mazda in 2010 and finished second in Indy Lights the following year.
Filippi will make his 19th IndyCar Series start, but his first behind the wheel of the #19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Dale Coyne Racing car. The team is currently working on extending its relationship with the Italian racer to a full-season deal.
This will be Filippi’s second visit to St. Petersburg, having participated in the IndyCar event last year where he scored a ninth place finish.
Daly and Filippi will kick off their 2016 campaigns starting Friday, March 11 during the first practice session at 10:50am. Qualifying will start at 3:40pm ET on Saturday March 12.
The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will go green at 12:52pm ET on Sunday, March 13 and will be broadcast live on ABC starting at 12:30pm ET.
All practice and qualifying sessions will be streamed live on www.indycar.com.
Dale Coyne Racing Driver Quotes
Conor Daly - #18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality & Restaurant Group
“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 – #19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q
“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.”