INDIANAPOLIS – It isn’t the ideal opportunity, but James Davison is trying to make the most of it.
The 30-year-old Aussie was tabbed by Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Dale Coyne to substitute for the injured Sebastien Bourdais in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion, sustained pelvic and hip fractures when he crashed into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier during qualifying Saturday. The 38-year-old Frenchman had run a pair of laps at better than 231 mph – the only driver to do so that day – before the incident.
Bourdais underwent successful surgery Saturday night at IU Health Methodist Hospital, where is remains in recovery. Coyne confirmed Sunday that Bourdais will miss the rest of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season and named Davison as the substitute in the No. 18 GEICO Honda for the Indy 500. Driver plans following the May 28 race are yet to be determined.
With Davison, it is a reunion of driver and team. Three of his four Verizon IndyCar Series starts have come with Dale Coyne Racing, including Davison’s 2013 debut at Mid-Ohio and his most recent Indy car race, the 2015 Indianapolis 500 when he finished 27th.
“We’ve run him before, on road courses and here (at Indianapolis),” Coyne said. “He does a good, clean job. He’s good at getting in with only a handful of laps and he’s only going to have a handful of laps before this one. He’s getting into a pretty good car. We’ve had good cars all month here, so we think he can do a good job.”
Davison did not get on track for Sunday’s final day of qualifying, but was added to the field in the 33rd starting position per INDYCAR rules. He will take a 30-minute on-track refresher at noon ET today before practice opens to all drivers from 12:30-4 p.m. (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). After today, only the one-hour Miller Lite Carb Day practice on Friday remains before the 200-lap race.
A two-time Indy 500 starter, Davison’s best finish was 16th place in 2014 with KV Racing Technology.
“It’s certainly mixed emotions,” Davison said of replacing Bourdais. “No racing driver ever wants to secure an opportunity under these circumstances. I got to know Sebastien a little better when I was living in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago, and we were teammates together at KV Racing in 2014 when I was a rookie. He was very good to me there.
“The circumstance we find ourselves in right now is compromised with the (limited) time and the equipment we have available, but we’ll just do the best job we possibly can as a team for Sebastien and our sponsors GEICO, Hollinger Motorsports and Cruise Associates.”
The 2009 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship runner-up, Davison said communication with teammate Ed Jones – a series rookie who qualified an impressive 11th on Sunday – will be key to getting up to speed since Davison hasn’t been in an Indy car in two years.
“No doubt it will be,” Davison said. “Ed and I coincidentally live in the same building together in Miami, so we’ve become friends. I’m sure he’ll be a good help to me whenever I may have some questions.”
The Dale Coyne Racing crew worked to change over the No. 18 back-up car Sunday from road/street course configuration to superspeedway oval trim. While that transition occurs, team owner Coyne’s thoughts are also with Bourdais and his recuperation.
“It’s going to be a 12-week rehab,” Coyne said. “I mean, even just having a fractured hip is 8-10 weeks, and he’s got multiple. He’s got a plate, screws in his hip bone and plate on his pelvis. … So it’s at least 12 weeks, which may get him ready for Sonoma (in September), but why run one race? Let him rehab for the other four months and get ready to go for next year. Have him out and in January start testing with him and go at it.”