James Davison has a seat for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. And it’s one he’s glad to be stepping back into for the world’s largest single-day sporting event.
It was announced Friday that the 32-year-old driver will return to Dale Coyne Racing in a partnership with Jonathan Byrd’s Racing, Hollinger MotorSport and Belardi Auto Racing for the Indy 500 in May. Davison will pilot the No. 33 Dale Coyne Racing with Byrd-Hollinger-Belardi Honda and fittingly became the 33rd official entrant for this year’s edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
“It means a lot,” Davison said during a news conference to make the announcement at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “More than anything, it means a lot to be back with Dale Coyne.”
The partnership marks a reunion for Davison, who drove in last year’s Indy 500 effort with AJ Foyt Racing in a partnership with Byrd, Hollinger and Belardi. While he put in an exhilarating second-day qualifying performance to start the race in 19th, Davison was collected in an accident on Lap 46 and finished last in the 33-car field.
It was with Dale Coyne Racing, however, that Davison made his NTT IndyCar Series debut in 2013 and competed twice at the Indianapolis 500. In 2017, Coyne called on the Australian as a last-minute substitute to replace an injured Sebastien Bourdais. Starting last, Davison charged through the field to lead two laps and was running among the leaders when he was involved in a crash just 17 laps from the end and finished 20th.
Davison is eager to pair with the Coyne crew again in 2019.
“Like everyone that starts the race, we have high hopes,” he said. “Certainly, the engineering group behind Dale Coyne Racing with Craig Hampson and Mike Cannon, who I've been fortunate to work with both in the past, driving the (Nos.) 18 and 19 cars in 2017 and '15, that's a big part of what is making Dale Coyne Racing a successful team.
“They've been basically the top Honda in (Indy 500) qualifying the last two years. Certainly looking to capitalize on that. Yeah, May can't come soon enough.”
Davison becomes the third entry for DCR, which is starting its 36th season of Indy car racing. He joins four-time Indy car champion Bourdais and NTT IndyCar Series rookie Santino Ferrucci for the competition on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
“Coming back to run with Dale is like coming home, feels like that very much,” said David Byrd, son of the late Jonathan Byrd, who has kept the family’s lengthy history fielding cars in racing going.
“We had great success with our program in 2016,” added Byrd, who supported the Dale Coyne Racing entry of late short-track great Bryan Clauson that led three laps and finished 23rd. “We were competitive, led laps. That was a first for a long time at Indy with our family's history there. Never been at the front of the field. To be able to do that, hopefully we can duplicate that.
“Dale just has a very welcoming environment, always have been, himself, his wife (Gail). Everybody at the team, they're just so fantastic to work with. … James has history there, we have history there. We are bringing Brian (Belardi) onboard again to be part of it. I think it's all shaping up very well for something special for this year and hopefully also for the future.”
The opportunity is also one that excites longtime Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires team owner Belardi. Last year’s Indy 500 marked Belardi’s debut as an owner in the NTT IndyCar Series, and he’s been looking to build on it since.
“David and James have been working on this for a couple of years. It finally came to fruition this year,” Belardi said. “I think everybody knows that my end goal is to be an (NTT IndyCar Series) team owner, so basically it's one step at a time for me. I think this is a fantastic step.”
Practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday, May 14. Two days of qualifying to determine the field of 33 take place May 18-19. The 200-lap race is set for Sunday, May 26 and airs live on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Tickets are available at IMS.com.