Bourdais A ‘Hero’ Again At Historic Milwaukee Mile

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, July 13 2015
Sebastien Bourdais takes a victory lap with the checkered flag at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday.

Sebastien Bourdais takes a victory lap with the checkered flag at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday.

For the second race in a row on Sunday, a driver from what has to be considered a non-power team won a Verizon IndyCar Series race. For the second race in row, the victory came on an oval.

bugindycarThis time the driver was Sebastien Bourdais, who drives for KVSH Racing, and the venue was the world’s oldest auto racing track – the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.

Bourdais collected his fifth Indy car victory on an oval – his first since winning at The Milwaukee Mile in 2006 – and 34th win overall by dominating the second half of the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.
The victory comes on the heels of Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Graham Rahal’s victory at the 2-mile oval of Auto Club Speedway.

“I just enjoy the moment, have fun with it,” the French driver said. “You know, that group (KVSH) gave me a chance to finally get me back in a car that’s something able to contend for wins.  Not every weekend, but it’s a very competitive field.  When you look who can win every weekend, it’s actually not so easy. 

“When you see Penske dominating last year, us struggling like hell, like just driving another series compared to these guys, then today, you know, we’re just really starting to make progress on the ovals. 

“Obviously the big thing is it’s always a two-day event.  Every oval is different.  There is no testing.  So continuity is the key.  That’s where it takes time to get back in the groove.  Even for me, to sharpen your game.  I have not been driving ovals for a while.  Then I came back in ’11.  I still didn’t drive the ovals.  I didn’t drive the ovals in ’12.  Then ’13 was the first time.  Last year the first time with KV.  We kind of set things in motion a little bit, but didn’t get it right most of the time.  Actually, never really on the ovals. 

“Now it’s starting to come together.  We’re going against guys who have their own shaker rig, their own resources to go to the wind tunnel, do everything.  We’re just going out there with our guts and our feelings and our energy.  It’s a small group, but it’s a heck of a group, and I’m really enjoying my time. 

“I’m 36 years old, and I don’t feel I’ve been any better than I am right now.  I’m just hoping it lasts as long as I can.”

Driving the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet, Bourdais tied Al Unser Jr. for seventh on the all-time victory list with 34.

Not that that matters.

“I respect the stats because you put yourself on a very special list with very respected and great drivers,” Bourdais said. “But I don’t live for stats.  I don’t look and contemplate myself.  It’s not me.”

Bourdais, who led a field-high 118 laps, built a large enough cushion on his Verizon IndyCar Series competitors that he retained the lead after pitting on Lap 213 of 250 on the 1.015-mile historic Milwaukee Mile oval. He then held off powerful Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who started last in the 24-car field in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet because of a qualifying rules violation, on a Lap 232 restart and sped away to a 2.2366-second victory.

“I was pushing to the limit,” Castroneves said, “no question. I knew the Hitachi car would be very good, but the 11 car (Bourdais) was very fast. That seemed to be the key here. That was a hell of a job by the guys. We had a little miscue with qualifying, but we never lost faith. We focused on the race. I’m just so proud and honored to be part of this team. ”

Bourdais led 117 laps from the pole in winning a 197-lap timed race at The Mile in June 2006 for his fourth consecutive victory of that season.

“On these ovals, you can go from hero to zero and back to hero again. I guess that’s my story,” said Bourdais, who qualified 11th on a day that had both qualifying and the race on Sunday. “It’s so much about momentum when you can feel one with the car, and today the guys gave me an awesome car. It felt pretty good off the truck and I thought, ‘This could be a pretty good weekend.’ And then we messed up qualifying.

“Never did I think we could come up through the field and pass everybody. It’s just unbelievable. It’s what these places do to you. When the car is right, it’s so, so special.”

Boudais said Sunday’s victory was similar to his last victory at the track, which sits on the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds.

“It’s very funny because it didn’t happen the same way, but it’s pretty much the same thing all over again,” he said. “In ’06 we started from pole, ran away, got a flat, went a lap down, lapped ourselves, went through the field, almost lapped the field again to go and win the race. 

“It was obviously quite a bit harder than today, but we had a bit of a rollercoaster ride the same way.  In ’06 the difference is, like I said, there were not as many strong cars, so it was easier to go through the field.  First of all, there were only 18, 19 cars.  Not so many of them are as good as we’ve got them right now.”

Rahal, who won the MAVTV 500 on June 27, finished third in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“We’ve been working really hard, just putting ourselves in a position to succeed.” Rahal said. “This team put us in that position today. They got us three spots in the pits and I got a couple more on the restart and it was clear sailing from there. We were looking at a three-stop strategy early on and I think we were the only ones that could do it and then we bailed and I was frustrated at the time, but with the way the yellows worked out it was fine. I was a lot quicker than Helio (Castroneves) at the end, but I just couldn’t get around him. This is a good points day for us. I think we are tied for third. It’s been a good year for us and this is No. 5 for podiums. We wanted to beat Helio (Castroneves) bad, wanted to pull that gap in points, but it looks like he’s tied with us. We’ll just keep pushing away. We’re proud to fly the flag for Honda. That’s our goal, that’s our job and we’re proud to do it.”

Pole sitter Josef Newgarden led 109 laps and finished fifth in the No. 67 CFH Racing Chevrolet.

 “We just had to do too much work later in the week to try and get by people,” Newgarden, who looked unbeatable in the first half of the race, said. “I could only get so many spots, but our car was fast. It’s been fast all weekend, the Direct Supply guys really put an amazing car together for us. It’s just that I needed clean air, probably more so than other guys. To get that was difficult. When we had it in the beginning, I think we were the fastest car in the field for sure. It was all about track position today, we lost out on that a little bit but it was still a great effort and a great weekend for CFH Racing.”

Will Power’s No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was collected in a Lap 131 incident off a restart when the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda driven by Ryan Briscoe spun in Turn 4.

It was the second consecutive DNF for Power, allowing Montoya to increase his championship points lead. Scott Dixon, making his 250th Indy car start, overtook Power for second in the standings with a seventh-place finish in the No. 9 Cottonelle Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Montoya takes a 54-point advantage over Dixon into the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on July 18. Power fell to fifth in the standings with 369 points, one marker behind Rahal and Castroneves.

“No question it makes it tough,” said Power, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion who finished 22nd. “We just have to focus and move on to the next one.”

Results Sunday of the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.015-mile Milwaukee Mile, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1.  (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 250, Running
2.  (24) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 250, Running
3.  (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 250, Running
4.  (8) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 250, Running
5.  (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 250, Running
6.  (4) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 250, Running
7.  (10) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 250, Running
8.  (9) Marco Andretti, Honda, 250, Running
9.  (17) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 250, Running
10.  (22) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 250, Running
11.  (12) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 250, Running
12.  (7) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 250, Running
13.  (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 250, Running
14.  (13) Takuma Sato, Honda, 250, Running
15.  (18) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 250, Running
16.  (20) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 248, Running
17.  (21) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 221, Running
18.  (15) Justin Wilson, Honda, 219, Mechanical
19.  (3) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
20.  (19) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 156, Mechanical
21.  (2) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 130, Contact
22.  (14) Will Power, Chevrolet, 130, Contact
23.  (5) James Jakes, Honda, 113, Mechanical
24.  (23) Pippa Mann, Honda, 27, Handling

Race Statistics
Winners average speed:  130.373
Time of Race: 01:56:46.8264
Margin of victory: 2.2366
Cautions: 3 for 36 laps
Lead changes: 9 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Newgarden 1 – 54
Rahal 55 – 59
Newgarden 60 – 100
Bourdais 101
Wilson 102
Dixon 103 – 116
Bourdais 117 – 170
Newgarden 171 -184
Kanaan 185 – 187
Bourdais 188 – 250

Verizon IndyCar Point Standings: Montoya 439, Dixon 385, Rahal 370, Castroneves 370, Power 369, Bourdais 343, Andretti 332, Kanaan 314, Newgarden 309, Pagenaud 278.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, July 13 2015
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