Dale Coyne Racing is bringing a familiar face in to drive its No. 18 Honda this week for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Tristan Vautier, who has made 11 of his 30 career Verizon IndyCar Series starts with the team, will fill the seat this weekend as fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais continues to mend from injuries sustained in a May 20 crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Vautier will team with rookie Ed Jones in the DCR camp on the 1.5-mile TMS oval. The 2012 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, Vautier competed in the final 11 races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season with the Illinois-based team, posting a best finish of fourth in the second race of the Belle Isle Park weekend in Detroit.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back in an Indy car and race for Dale again,” said Vautier. “But before talking about me stepping in, let’s all keep sending our thoughts to Seb for a quick recovery. I was happy to see him at the track at Indy on race day. I have big shoes to fill!
“That being said, I really can’t wait to be in the car on Friday and see how it feels that first lap around. It’s not the easiest place to step back in and practice is going to be very limited, but the team has been competitive everywhere and I trust we’ll be good. It’s going to be cool working with the whole team again, and also with (engineer) Craig Hampson, who I met in Le Mans when I was 16 and just getting started in racing. I remember I was asking him about opportunities in the USA and he was telling me to come over.”
Vautier will be the third driver to substitute for Bourdais in as many weeks. James Davison drove the car to a 20th-place finish in the Indy 500 on May 28. Esteban Gutierrez made his series debut last weekend for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader, with finishes of 19th and 14th in the two races.
“We chose Tristan to fill the (No.) 18 seat at Texas because of his previous experience at Texas Motor Speedway,” team owner Dale Coyne said. “We think he can help the team and Ed, who has never raced or even tested there. Tristan has remained close with the team and he’s always done a good job for us. I expect much of the same going into this race weekend.”
Vautier has raced twice at Texas, in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and in 2015 with Coyne. His best finish at the track was 18th with SPM. The 27-year-old has been driving this season for SunEnergy1 Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including a pole-winning effort in the GTD class at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Verizon IndyCar Series practice for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 begins at 11 a.m. ET Friday (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). Single-car qualifying is set for a 3:15 p.m. start, with coverage on NBCSN starting at 3:30. The final 30-minute practice is set for 6:45 p.m. (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com).
Live coverage of the 248-lap race begins at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.