IndyCar driver Alex Lloyd will go into this weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 hoping that a sudden bout of appendicitis won’t derail the momentum that has seen him take the unfancied #19 Dale Coyne Racing car to top-eight finishes in the last two races.
Race day on Sunday will be barely a week after he underwent surgery to remove his appendix, but he told indycar.com that he didn’t expect it to prevent him competing: “I’m feeling a little sore, which is pretty normal. No doubt a week is a little tight timeframe to recover and be back in a race car, but no question I will be racing in Iowa.”
The pre-season departures of engineer Bill Pappas and driver Justin Wilson were expected to consign the #19 car to the back of the field, but after a slow start to the year Lloyd now finds himself in the middle of a purple patch as the leading rookie in the series.
He was classified fourth in the Indianapolis 500, although he actually crossed the line third and for a while celebrated a thoroughly unlikely podium until an appeal by Marco Andretti dropped him back a place. Then at Texas he qualified sixth and finished eighth, recovering strongly from a pitstop error that sent him to the back of the field.
Under the circumstances, missing Iowa with a sick note is the last thing he wants: “We have such a roll going on at Dale Coyne Racing right now that nothing would stop me trying to keep that going at Iowa. So far my recovery is right on track and although a setback I feel I will have no problems performing to my best.
“We’re all – the team – very, very happy. Things started off a little rough for us and I guess we started off a little behind the eight-ball in terms of preparation because everything came together last minute.
“We suffered the first few races, but after Kansas, everybody knuckled down and really worked hard knowing we had to step our game up. The momentum we have going now is fantastic – I can’t wait to get to Iowa because our oval package seems really good right now.”
This success comes despite the late deal struck with Lloyd to drive the car and despite the loss of several key people. He said: “One of the reasons why we had a slow start to the year is that the team changed a lot. It was really a new bunch of guys working together for the first time and trying to learn during the race weekends because we didn’t have any testing prior the season.
“It was tough. It takes a while for thing to start to gel, and we had a little reshuffling before Indianapolis on how we were going to engineer the car and changed our plan with that. That seems to have paid off and seems to be working for us.”
Lloyd, who won at Iowa in his Indy Lights championship season of 2007 then sat out the next two years on a Ganassi development contract apart from runs in the Indianapolis 500, is now targeting the Rookie of the Year award.
He said: “It would be a big thing. There’s a good crop of rookies this year and one of my goals was to get that Rookie of the Year. The last couple of races have put us in a good position as we start getting towards the end of the first half of the championship.
“Obviously, there’s a long way to go. We need to keep putting ourselves in good positions and keep working on what we’ve got and not let this momentum slip away.”