By Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Lloyd marks return to Indy 500
- Coyne pleased to have Lloyd back
- Lloyd finished 4th in 2010
After months of waiting, and negotiating for the right opportunity, Dale Coyne Racing's Alex Lloyd is ready to hop back into the cockpit with the team that he took to a best-ever, fourth-place finish in the 2010 Indianapolis 500.
"It's been a long off-season, but that's racing," said Lloyd, who spent Monday in Chicago on a photo shoot with the team, "but you get used to it, being out of the car for 3, 4 months at a time."
We could finish Top 5 if everything went perfect.
Lloyd will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with other veteran drivers on Saturday for Opening Day practice. A former Boy Scout in the U.K., he will pilot the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car in the centennial 500 on May 29th. He will also drive the car in the remaining seven oval races on the 2011 IndyCar Series schedule.
For the second-year man from Indianapolis there has been a longer than anticipated pause in the action. "I've been doing some driver coaching in Indy Lights," he said of his recent trackside activity. "My first time on the track since last year, other than coaching (teammate) James Jakes on Rookie Orientation Program day, will be on Opening Day."
"It's the first oval of the year for everyone, so it's no disadvantage. It's a long month of May, and there's plenty of time to get back up to speed," he continued. The last time the IndyCar Series took to an oval was last year's season-ender at Homestead Miami Speedway on October 2nd, 2010. Lloyd finished the race in twelfth place, wrapping up the 2010 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Award in the process.
Lloyd is expecting another successful effort on the Brickyard again in 2011, citing another Top 10 finish in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing as a realistic goal. "We could finish Top 5 if everything went perfect," he said. "We're a small team, with all new people again this year; but, I feel we can fight for a Top 10 finish every race we run. I'd be disappointed if we didn't. We want to be knocking on that door every time."
The former Indy Lights champion (2007) shares the same love of Indy that most fans and drivers acknowledge. "Indy is the biggest thing for me. It's the big one, the foremost thing on my mind. I'd rather have a good race at Indianapolis than win a championship."
Still in the back of his mind, though, is the way in which the 2010 race ended off the track for him. After finishing in third place on the track the No. 19 car was reclassified to fourth in the final official standings. The shake-up came after officials reviewed a last-lap cascade of events triggered by the crash of Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay. During the yellow flag period that ensued Marco Andretti ran out of fuel and was passed by several drivers, including Lloyd. Officials later determined the pass was illegal, even though conclusive evidence was short at hand. Andretti, who finished sixth on the track, was moved to third and other drivers fell a spot in the results.
"It still eats me up a little bit, a lot of what-if," Lloyd said of the incident. "We timed the fuel just right, had the right strategy and if the race had gone green to the finish we could have gotten second place."
"From my side it was clear we were third but we couldn’t prove it," he added. "It (the ruling by the IndyCar Series to reclassify him fourth) was discretionary, but I know we probably did finish third in the race." Rookie Orientation begins Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with first-time drivers and drivers needing a refresher on the 2.5 mile high-speed superspeedway taking turns over the Brickyard surface from 8:30 AM EDT to 2 PM EDT. Opening Day is scheduled for Saturday May 14th with IndyCar Series veterans permitted on-track from Noon EDT to 6 PM EDT (weather permitting). The long-range forecast for Speedway, Indiana this weekend indicates a 30 percent chance of rain.