2024 IndyCar form guide: Dale Coyne Racing

Dale Coyne Racing 

No. 18 Honda: Jack Harvey/Nolan Siegel (24th in 2023 championship/rookie)

No. 51 Honda: Colin Braun/Others (rookie)


Major rebuild in progress

An early offseason that was loaded with optimism for recruiting a top Formula 2 talent and those who would come with an influx of funding has not panned out for the spirited team from Illinois.

Efforts to find drivers to pilot both cars has been a painstakingly long and setback-filled process, and to that end, three days before cars are on track for the season opener, the Coyne team finally confirmed its lineup for St. Petersburg.


In 2024, the team’s composition will look far more like an IMSA program with 2-3 drivers rotating through both entries, and that’s not what we’re accustomed to seeing with Coyne. Jack Harvey is in for most of the races in the No. 18 Honda, but not all, as rising American Indy NXT talent Nolan Siegel is plugged in for four races, including the Indianapolis 500, in preparation for going full-time next year.

Nolan Siegel will have four chances to make a rookie impression in IndyCar this year with DCR, including the Indy 500. Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment

Colin Braun is finally getting his shot in IndyCar with the No. 51 Honda, but for how many races? He’s in for St. Petersburg and The Thermal Club, but who’ll get the nod at Long Beach, Barber, and so on? Braun isn’t bringing funding to the party, and while his schedule isn’t completely open due to IMSA LMP2 and SRO GT3 obligations, he could drive for Coyne at most events if there’s a need.

The revolving door within Coyne’s engineering group is another area that’s made it hard for the team to make year-to-year progress. Ross Bunnell led the team’s engineering efforts in 2022 and looked after David Malukas in the No. 18 Honda, but he was hired away by Chip Ganassi Racing to become Scott Dixon’s race engineer last season. His replacement was engineering assistant, Alex Athanasiadis, who was promoted to full race engineer, and he and Malukas did well together.

And then Athanasiadis recently left to work for Roger Penske as a race engineer on the Porsche Penske Motorsport FIA WEC team, so another engineering reboot was required. Don Bricker, who has run Coyne’s second car, the No. 51 Honda, as its race engineer, has been moved over to the No. 18, and like its drivers, it took until the final days of the offseason for the team to hire an engineer to run its second car. Racing veteran Steve Newey is headed to St. Pete to engineer Braun and he brings plenty of knowledge from CART, the ALMS, and managed Bryan Herta’s IndyCar team during the early years of the DW12 formula.

Thanks to the engineering turnover, Coyne has not been able to invest in the kinds of offseason R&D projects it’s accustomed to carrying out, and that means it will start well behind the other nine teams in that regard. Where the race to win in 2024 began for most teams in the days after the Sept. 10 season finale in Monterey, Coyne’s operation is having to start that process now, on the cusp of the new championship run.

It’s everything they didn’t want to happen, but it’s their reality.

The Mitch effect

Despite all of the aforementioned obstacles to clear, Coyne hired the right person to rebuild the team in Mitch Davis, who led the outfit to its first win many years ago and has vast experience running IndyCar and IMSA teams.

Davis steps in for Terry Brown, who managed the team in recent years but has embraced semi-retirement while consulting for Coyne. In Davis, the team has a focused leader who folks tend to gravitate towards, and while it’s been a rough offseason in so many ways, he’s pushed for Coyne to hire Braun and attracted some good new crew members to complement the loyal veterans.

Davis is the right guy to take the baton from Brown, and although we won’t see it in the beginning of the championship, I do expect him to round the program into shape and make it better in many ways. There’s also no doubt that Davis has a hellacious amount of work ahead to get Coyne up to speed.

A callback jor Jack

Harvey’s formative years in IndyCar were spent with the part-time, single-car Meyer Shank Racing team where he delivered his best performances. It’s here where the 30-year-old from England could hold significant value within the underprepared Coyne program as it attempts to settle itself and take on its rivals in the bottom half of the field.

Harvey was asked to do more than just drive when he was with MSR, and if Coyne welcomes his input on the engineering, strategy, and operational sides, it could help to accelerate their progress. Doing more with less was common for Harvey in those early days, and if he can tap into his approach that helped MSR to shine, it’s possible for similar things to happen with his new team.

The gamer

For Braun, the 35-year-old’s introduction to IndyCar racing is a proverbial baptism by fire. But he’s a gamer, among the most experienced drivers within the IndyCar paddock, and has spent most of his teens and adult life jumping from one radically different car to another. And that’s why he’s accepted the offer to race for Coyne with a single day of experience in these cars. Sure, it’s a daunting situation, but this is the right guy for such a crazy proposition.

The Texan has raced everywhere — the high banks at Talladega to Le Mans to the Nurburgring to Road America — and because of his non-stop career, there’s a well-refined comfort that lives within Braun when it comes to taking on wild things like lining up to race against IndyCar’s best after one day spent at Sebring in a DW12.

Braun was faster than Harvey at that test, which isn’t a dig at his teammate. It just confirmed for the umpteenth time that Braun can be thrown into anything and impress in an instant.

Where Coyne goes with the No. 51 in April and beyond is a point of interest. Ketherine Legge, a favorite of Honda who drove for Coyne in Champ Car in 2007, is said to have the No. 51 for the Indy 500 and other ovals, but the identity of who’ll steer the car for most of the unassigned races is a mystery.

Even so…

When a driver and their race engineer are meeting for the first time in the paddock at the opening round, expectations must be lowered to match the situation they’re in. Drawing from all we’ve covered so far, the Coyne team should be slowest in every session and again in this weekend’s race.

Even so, be open to the possibility of Braun or Harvey delivering beyond the confines of their circumstances.

Will the sports car champion hurl the No. 51 into the Fast 12 on Saturday? Not unless miracles are involved. But if he’s anything other than last, Coyne and Company will deserve all the beer and balloons that can fit in their paddock space. The same goes for Harvey, who has the experience to run higher than last, but can only go as fast as his underdeveloped car will allow.

From the 10 teams that make up the field of 27 cars, this is the one — and the only one — that has a giant caveat placed over every aspect of its season. From management to engineering to drivers, it’s a fresh start and it’s a late start. Be kind when they struggle and cheer when they don’t.

Coyne will likely be among his team’s biggest sponsors this season, and that alone deserves respect. Hope for a better 2025 starts now.

Story originally appeared on Racer