Nothing has been signed, but it's looking more and more likely that James Davison will pilot the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the Indy 500.
There was a time when veteran team owner Dale Coyne wouldn’t reveal the drivers for his two Dale Coyne Racing (DCR) cars until they showed up for practice at any given Indy car racetrack.
On Monday’s first official day of practice for the 99th Indianapolis 500, Carlos Huertas practiced in the No. 18 car he drove at St Petersburg, New Orleans and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, placing 27th of 30 drivers working at the track. The Colombian sat out the Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park contests. Pippa Mann drove her No. 63 DCR Honda machine on Monday afternoon, placing 25th.
The No. 19 DCR has been wheeled, without distinction (if you don’t count running into his crew chief at NOLA) by Italian Francesco Dracone for the first five road/street course races, but Dracone has little to no experience on an oval track, making a substitute essential for the first - and most important - oval race of the season.
Speculation has surrounded three drivers: Vitor Meira, Katherine Legge, and James Davison.
On Tuesday morning, engineers within the DCR team said that James Davison has been the one selected to drive the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Boy Scouts of America Honda/Firestone entry in this year’s 99th Indianapolis 500. The 28-year-old also made laps in the car with 30 minutes to go in Tuesday practice.
The Australian is a third generation racer whose father Jon drove in Formula 5000 and grandfather Lex was a four-time Australian Grand Prix winner.
Davison's open-wheel background
Davison has been in American open wheel competition since 2005 (Formula BMW USA, Formula Atlantic and Indy Lights) and has also raced in the Rolex Sports Car Series and Pirelli World Challenge, where he is currently a full-time driver for the Always Evolving NISMO team, which ironically has a race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly Mosport) this weekend.
Davison’s first Indy 500 experience came in 2014 with KV Racing Technology where he finished 16th. Davison contested two INDYCAR races with Coyne’s outfit in 2013, finishing 15th at MId-Ohio and 18th in Sonoma.
Shortly after the track opened for six hours of practice on Tuesday, Davison told me he hopes to drive in the Indy 500 on May 24th but another driver would have to qualify the car as he’s got that Pirelli World Challenge AE/NISMO commitment in Canada.
The last time a second driver intentionally qualified for an Indy 500 racer came in 1981. Qualifying was rained out the first weekend and Wally Dallenbach came out of retirement to qualify for Mario Andretti, who had prior obligations with Colin Chapman and Lotus in Formula 1, forcing Andretti to the rear of the field.
Honda reps said Brian Barnhart, president of competition for INDYCAR wasn’t terribly pleased with that two-driver prospect, which could throw a wrench into Davison’s plans to race this week in Canada and next week at Indianapolis.