Tristan Vautier will make his Verizon IndyCar Series return this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway after being chosen to replace the injured Sebastien Bourdais at Dale Coyne Racing.
With Esteban Gutierrez barred from racing at the 1.5-mile oval due to his lack of experience on an oval, Dale Coyne was forced to look elsewhere for a driver for the #18 machine, with Bourdais currently recuperating after his vicious crash during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
Vautier, who has two previous starts in Texas in 2013 and 2015, the latter with Dale Coyne Racing, is ready to make his return to the series, but acknowledges he has big boots to fill when he replaces Bourdais, and the Frenchman is hoping to be quick and competitive straight out of the box this weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back in an Indy car and race for Dale again,” said Vautier. “But before talking about me stepping in, let’s all keep sending our thoughts to Seb for a quick recovery. I was happy to see him at the track at Indy on race day. I have big shoes to fill!
“That being said, I really can’t wait to be in the car on Friday and see how it feels that first lap around. It’s not the easiest place to step back in and practice is going to be very limited, but the team has been competitive everywhere, and I trust we’ll be good.
“It’s going to be cool working with the whole team again, and also with Craig Hampson who I met in Le Mans when I was 16 and just getting started in racing. I remember I was asking him about opportunities in the USA and he was telling me to come over!”
Team owner Coyne said that the decision to chose Vautier over some of the other candidates for the drive was down to his previous experience at Texas, and he feels he will be able to help out Ed Jones, who will be making his first appearance at the oval this weekend.
“We chose Tristan to fill the 18 seat at Texas because of his previous experience at Texas Motor Speedway,” said Coyne. “We think he can help the team and Ed (Jones) who has never raced or even tested there.
“Tristan has remained close with the team and he’s always done a good job for us. I expect much of the same going into this race weekend.”