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David Malsher-Lopez

Coyne expects to keep Malukas, Sato for IndyCar 2023, targets third entry

Dale Coyne Racing lost its star rookies of 2020 and 2021, Alex Palou and Romain Grosjean, to Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport respectively for their second seasons.

But team owner Coyne is eager to keep hold of last year’s Indy Lights runner-up Malukas, who sits just four points behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard in the Rookie of the Year standings.

He also wants to retain 45-year-old Sato, who he feels has contributed much knowledge and oval pace both to the DCR team and to his young team-mate.

The Japanese veteran is currently 19th in the standings, two places behind Malukas, with the team's best finish of the year in seventh at the year's first of two visits to the Indianapolis road course.

“We have contracts for David and Takuma for next year, so I’m 99 percent sure they’re both staying,” Coyne told Autosport ahead of this weekend's second Indy GP.

“Their contracts are different, because if Takuma wanted to retire at the end of this year he can; but if he stays in IndyCar, he has to stay with us. David’s is just a regular two-year contract.

“But Takuma is as excited about IndyCar as he ever was – I think he’s got another couple of years in him yet.

“He was very quick at Texas and Detroit which are obviously very different tracks, and he was quickest in all the practice sessions at Indy. And obviously David’s done a great job.

Takuma Sato, Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda (Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images)

“We haven’t got it done yet in terms of results – we haven’t got a win or a podium. But I think we’ve got potential for both of them getting on a podium before the year’s over.

“I give David a lot of credit for his speed compared with Takuma and from listening and learning to the voices of experience around him, but I also give Takuma a lot of credit for keeping up with a young and hungry rookie.

“He gives 100 percent, he’s open-minded to our ideas, and David’s set-ups, even at his age. And he’s helped David a lot, especially on ovals.”

Coyne confessed that his crew members “need to get better at pitstops”, so in light of that, expansion to a three-car operation for 2023 would appear to be difficult, given the dearth of experienced engineers and crew members.

“Yes, it’s difficult, but I’d say now is a good time to do it,” explained Coyne, “because in 2024 [when the new 2.4-litre with hybrid engines are introduced] there’s going to be a different level of engineering required.

“So why not get our people together now and be more cohesive as a three-car team to be more prepared for 2024?

“Remember, running extra cars and integrating everything is all about people. We’ve got people who want to come here, drivers who want to come here.”

Asked whether he would be seeking another young gun or a series veteran to drive a prospective third car, Coyne said: “Probably a rookie; we like rookies.”

Coyne is in partnership with the HMD Motorsports Indy Lights team owned by Malukas’ father Henry, and it appears to have suitable candidates for 2023 and beyond.

Linus Lundqvist (Photo by: Indy Lights)

The most obvious is Linus Lundqvist, who won the Formula Regionals America title in 2020, was third in last year’s Lights championship behind Kyle Kirkwood and Malukas, and is leading the Lights points race in 2022.

“Sure, Lundqvist is the obvious one,” said Coyne. “He’s been fast, looks after his car, doesn’t make many mistakes.”

He went on to add that he would be less interested in bringing up engineers from Lights to IndyCar, “at least for now”. He will instead be looking at series veterans to fill the roles within the team and in particular populating the engineering/crew line-up for the third car.

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