INDIANAPOLIS – This is the fifth of a 12-part series of comprehensive team previews as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES prepares for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg set for March 13-15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The preview series features each of the full-time teams as well as teams running a partial schedule that includes the season-opening race. Today’s featured organization: Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan and Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh.
Coming Saturday: Ed Carpenter Racing.
The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, March 15. The pre-race show begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with the green flag scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Starting Lineup: Santino Ferrucci (No. 18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda), Alex Palou (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda).
2019 Recap: Ferrucci was remarkably consistent in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, completing all the laps in the first 15 races. He scored three fourth-place finishes on oval tracks (Texas Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway) and was voted the Indianapolis 500’s Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh. Ferrucci led 118 laps during the season, which ranked eighth in the series, and he finished 13th in the standings, three positions behind veteran teammate Sebastien Bourdais. Palou spent 2019 in Japan’s Super Formula series. He won the race at Fuji Speedway, one of three races he was the fastest qualifier. Palou, who had three top-five finishes in seven races, was named the Super Formula rookie of the year.
What’s New for 2020: In just his second NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, the 21-year-old Ferrucci takes on a larger leadership role within the organization. The engineering staff has been reworked with Olivier Boisson replacing Michael Cannon (now at Chip Ganassi Racing to lead the car of five-time series champion Scott Dixon). Palou, a 22-year-old Spaniard, is new to the series, but he showed well at last month’s open test at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, posting the ninth-quickest lap.
Keep An Eye On This: Ferrucci’s performances on oval tracks last season were remarkable given his lack of experience on them. Only Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden (3.6) and Simon Pagenaud (3.8) had better finishing averages on those tracks than Ferrucci (6.2).
Season Outlook: Most of Ferrucci’s attention last year was centered on the ovals, but he finished ninth in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a street course race. Ferrucci also led 20 laps in the second Detroit race and finished 10th. Palou is relatively unknown to fans of this series, but he could become the third Coyne driver since 2010 to win the season’s rookie award (Alex Lloyd and Ed Jones were the others).
“A Different Breed” Notable: Ferrucci is hungry to show off his versatility and in January he took on the challenge of competing in the country’s largest dirt track race, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. Ferrucci said he had fun “wheeling” it in his dirt track debut.
“We’re very much looking forward to this upcoming season. We have two talented young drivers with a lot of potential. Santino (Ferrucci) had a solid rookie season in 2019 and was absolutely spectacular on the ovals. I’m excited to see how he continues to build on that this year. As for Alex Palou, he impressed everyone on the team when he tested with us at Mid-Ohio last season as he was right on pace in his first time behind the wheel of an Indy car. It will, of course, be a year of learning for him, but I’m confident he’ll have a strong rookie season and maybe surprise some people along the way.” – Dale Coyne
“We are excited and anxious to begin the next chapter of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES under its new leadership. We also want to acknowledge the contributions of the drivers we have had in the past who brought us multiple race wins, podiums and poles. Santino (Ferrucci) is competitive, and we look forward to achieving together the results we all expect. We are fortunate to have our sponsor partners back with us anchored by SealMaster as we enter the 2020 season.” – Jimmy Vasser