7 July 2009
Coyne enjoys first victory.
Seneca Lodge patrons put down their salad forks and Labatt's Blue bottles to applaud when Dale Coyne and his wife, Gail, walked through the door with the winner's laurel from the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen.
It was certainly well-deserved and well overdue after Justin Wilson, who only signed for the team before the start of the season, completed the package that Coyne had been waiting 25 years and 558 races for, finally recording Dale Coyne Racing's first victory - not only in the IndyCar Series, but in any category.
"Congratulations to Dale on his first IndyCar win," said Roger Penske, who pensively watched one of his drivers, Ryan Briscoe, attempt to reel in Wilson over the final six laps of the 3.37-mile Watkins Glen International course, "Dale has been a great friend and a great competitor for many years and we are very happy for him and his team. They worked very hard for this. I thought Justin Wilson drove a great race and he certainly deserved the victory."
DCR's previous best finish in the IndyCar Series was third in the season opener at St Petersburg, and its best overall in open-wheel racing had been second with Bruno Junqueira in a 2007 Champ Car-sanctioned race at Zolder, in Belgium.
"We're absolutely ecstatic for Dale Coyne winning the race," admitted Mike Hull, managing director of the other team attempting to hunt Wilson down in the closing stages, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, "For a guy like Dale to put in not only the perseverance, but more importantly what he's done with his programme this year.... He stepped up to the plate with his programme this year, and he's gotten results. That's an owner that's taken the initiative to make it happen, and those are the kind of owners that make a difference in motor racing. He's done it on two levels, and we're very excited for him."
Memories rushed over Coyne, who turns 55 tomorrow [8 July], as he attempted to get his thoughts around what seems like a lifetime in motorsports - as a driver with 34 major open-wheel racing starts and a team owner that helped launch the careers of Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain Jr, Alex Barron and Robbie Buhl among others. Even IndyCar Series team owner Eric Bachelart - now in charge at Conquest Racing - drove for the team in 1992, 1993 and 1995.
"You have a passion for this and you love it, and you keep fighting and going forward," Coyne said, "When we have lean years or bad years and don't have a sponsor, it just makes you try harder, and I think that's paid off. The last few years we've tried to do a better job with what we've put together.
"This year, Justin became available. Some higher-quality engineering staff became available, and the wife and I talked about it. It was a financial commitment to do it, but we did it and said we're going to make this thing work. So we worked hard to pull all the pieces together, but that's because we have a passion for the sport."
Wilson, who gave team owner Paul Newman his final open-wheel racing victory at Belle Isle last August before providing Coyne with his first, also received an enthusiastic reception as the entire crew scurried across pit-lane to stand on the wall and cheer as he roared to the chequered flag.
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