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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

IndyCar Season Review: Alex Lloyd

After years spent in search of an IZOD IndyCar Series ride, Alex Lloyd finally made good on the promise he had shown in Firestone Indy Lights in 2010.

A two-time Indianapolis 500 veteran, Lloyd had been in line for a seat at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing this year due to his Her Energy Drink sponsorship, but the company pulled out. Lloyd searched for another open seat and found it at Dale Coyne Racing, where he would pilot the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Dallara-Honda that Graham Rahal turned down on a race-by-race basis. Lloyd converted the opportunity into full-time employment, a 16th place finish in points, and the 2010 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Award.

Given the season's first five races, Lloyd's award was anything but predictable; he suffered DNFs at Brazil and St. Petersburg, and ran no better than 19th at Alabama, Long Beach, or Kansas. Lloyd was also a second-day qualifier at Indianapolis, starting 26th.

But two years of experience at the Speedway paid off for the Englishman. He was able to avoid trouble all day and came home an impressive fourth, beating former race winner Scott Dixon, Danica Patrick, and ex-Coyne driver Justin Wilson, among many others. The Indianapolis finish (and paycheck of over $400,000) gave the team some momentum heading into the next couple of oval races; they finished eighth at Texas and 13th at Iowa.

But switching back to the road and street courses, the team again fell to the back. Lloyd spun out Dan Wheldon in Watkins Glen on the way to his third of five DNFs on the year. Indeed, at the beginning of every quarter of the season, on each switch from one discipline to the other, the team struggled. Lloyd would wait until Mid-Ohio to once again break the top half of the field, and until Sonoma to snag his third and final top-10 of the season.

Towards the end of the season Lloyd once again posted some decent finishes, running 13th at Chicagoland and 12th in the series' final race at Homestead. Overall his record was good for 266 points and 16th overall in the series' final standings. He won the Rookie of the Year title over the more-hyped and more-recognized Simona de Silvestro by 24 points.

While Lloyd has not signed a contract extension for 2011, most indications have him returning to Coyne and the Boy Scouts ride, where he and the team will attempt to build on the chemistry they attained this year.

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