St. Petersburg, Fla. – The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone took to the streets of St. Petersburg, FL this weekend to contest the season opening round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Limited testing of the new Honda HPD Aero Kit required efficient use of practice sessions leading up to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday.
Huertas improved his times as the weekend progressed culminating in a qualifying time of 1:01.9716 seconds, just a tenth of a second off of last year’s pole winning time. Despite running his fastest time of the weekend, Huertas started the race in 24th position.
The first race of the season did not go to plan for Huertas. After completing just 19 laps he came into the pits with a steering issue that would ultimately end his race. Said Huertas, “Something wasn’t right with the steering because when I turned the wheel all the way it didn’t feel like I was getting as much to the wheels. I didn’t make contact with anything but something clearly wasn’t right.”
Further investigation by the team revealed a setup change that gave Huertas the uncomfortable steering feel. The team made significant changes to the car’s setup after the morning warm up in an effort to make it more drivable for the young Colombian and without having the opportunity to track test the changes, it made for a short race.
Dracone pushed hard all weekend to get up to speed but the challenge of little time in an IndyCar chassis and driving the St. Petersburg circuit for the first time proved quite challenging. He started the race alongside his teammate in 23rd position.
After an early pit stop put Dracone on an alternate strategy, he kept a strong pace and ran as high as 14th position. With just 40 laps remaining in the race, Dracone brought the No. 19 La Pasta Honda into the pit lane with an engine issue.
“I was having fun out there and having some success.” Dracone continued, “I think the team had me on a good strategy but there was something not right with the power delivery of the car. I was having some issues and couldn’t continue.”
After the team recognized that the engine calibration problem was causing the Italian to run the engine into the rev limiter continually, they used their discretion and made the decision to retire the car.
“Both guys did a good job today and we learned a lot at our first street circuit with the new aero kits,” commented Dale Coyne. “We think what we learned will transfer nicely to Long Beach and with our test at NOLA earlier this week we look forward to getting on with the rest of the season.”
Dale Coyne Racing will next be on track at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana in two weeks. The race will take place at New Orleans Motorsport Park and will commence at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2015 and can be seen live on NBCSN.