Coyne to keep Malukas, Sato for 2023, weighs up third entry

Dale Coyne is “99 percent sure” of retaining star rookie David Malukas and two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato next year, but would be keen to expand to three entries.

Coyne to keep Malukas, Sato for 2023, weighs up third entry
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At the end of both 2020 and ’21, Dale Coyne Racing-Honda lost its star rookies Alex Palou and Romain Grosjean to Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport respectively. Team owner Dale Coyne is keen to not let that happen to David Malukas, last year’s Indy Lights runner-up, who sits just four points behind Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard in the Rookie of the Year standings.

He is also eager to retain 45-year-old Sato, driver of the Coyne w/Rick Ware Racing #51 car, who he feels has contributed much knowledge and oval pace both to the DCR team and to his young teammate.

“We have contracts for David and Takuma for next year, so I’m 99 percent sure they’re both staying,” Coyne told Motorsport.com. “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.

“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 setups, 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 [with the new 2.4-liter with hybrid engines 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, Coyne said, “Probably a rookie; we like rookies.”

HMD Motorsports, owned by Malukas’ father Henry who owns the Indy Lights team and with whom Coyne is now in partnership for the #18 IndyCar and the Lights car, has suitable candidates, for 2023 and beyond. 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”, and 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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