Bourdais Takes Round 1 In Detroit

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 4 2016
Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet, got the win on Belle Isle on Saturday. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet, got the win on Belle Isle on Saturday. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

Sebastien Bourdais and his KVSH Racing team played a pair of key pit stop gambles into the winning hand during Saturday’s first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, making history in the process.

A four-time Champ Car driver’s champion, Bourdais won by 2.0401-seconds over rookie Conor Daly in the 70-lap race on the 2.35-mile temporary street course at Belle Isle Park. It was the 37-year-old Frenchman’s 35th career victory, tying him with Bobby Unser for sixth on the all-time list.

“It’s like playing poker,” Bourdais said. “You know what hand you have right now at the moment, but every bet you make is going to work or not work based on what’s going to happen later on. You just have to make decisions and today we just got the lucky hand. The guys in the pits made the right call. Thankfully I didn’t make any mistakes, ran pretty well and pretty strong.”

Starting 13th in the No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet, Bourdais fell as low as 19th after pitting early to change to the black-sidewall Firestone primary tires most drivers preferred in the race. He charged to fourth by Lap 32 but didn’t take the race lead until Lap 55, when four-time/reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon made his final pit stop.

Bourdais stopped for fuel only two laps later, and when Daly needed to pit for a splash of Sunoco E85R ethanol on Lap 61, Bourdais regained the lead and took it to the checkered flag. On the heels of winning the second race of the 2015 Dual in Detroit, Bourdais now has won two consecutive Belle Isle events.

The weekend’s second Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, also scheduled for 70 laps, is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. (EDT) on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and 3:30 p.m. on ABC.  The turnaround left Bourdais with little time to savor the company he joined among Indy car racing’s all-time greats in the person of three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby U.

“Every time you move up the ranks like this, you feel like you belong even more in a very elite group, a very small group of extremely talented drivers, some obviously who are legends,” Bourdais said. “I don’t know that I want to compare myself to any of those.”

Indianapolis-based KVSH is co-owned by Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART champion, and Kevin Kalkhoven.

We’ve had such a rough winter,” Bourdais said. “It’s been such an uphill battle since the beginning of the season. To be able to come out on top today, it means a lot for the whole organization. We’ve been able to put on some pretty stellar performances in the last two or three years. We won a race, at least one, for the last two years.

“We were really looking forward to building that program. Then we had massive setbacks over the winter that really took the whole tree down. We’re still trying to recover. I’m just glad that all the guys that joined us so late in the game just get the reward for coming onboard and helping us out and making it happen. We’ve got a lot of real race fanatics, who some of them thought about retiring, came out, made it happen. We don’t have the youngest crew of guys, but they got their hearts in it. It takes time to rebuild a team. It’s really showed. Today we put on our best game and came back on top. So that’s pretty special.”

Daly, meanwhile, was elated with second place in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Honda _ his best finish in 13 career IndyCar Series races.

“I am a happy human,” said the 24-year-old American, the son of former open-wheel competitor Derek Daly. “I have to continue to remember this is my first year, right? Everything has been all over the place up until this. To be on the podium my first year, it’s a really rewarding experience. I just hope I can do more, obviously.”

Team Penske’s quartet of drivers dominated the race early, with championship leader Simon Pagenaud, 2014 series champion Will Power and 1999 Champ Car champion Juan Pablo Montoya leading the first 53 laps. But Pagenaud’s No. 22 Chevy ran out of fuel on the final lap en route to finishing 13th. Power’s day ended weirdly when a wheel nut on his No. 12 Chevy came loose on Lap 45, forcing him to pull off-course.

Montoya finished third in the No. 2 Chevrolet, his best result since winning the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March. “We were trying to play the rain,” Montoya said. “When we restarted, we never really pushed. We were trying to make sure we could make it to the rain and the rain never came. We tried to run a smart race, but it didn’t happen. We got a decent podium out of it, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Graham Rahal finished fourth in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, just ahead of Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I’m frustrated that somehow Daly and Bourdais got around us,” Rahal said. “I’m disappointed about that. At the end of the day the United Rentals Honda was great, we put some great laps in and to come out fourth is a nice result. Obviously I would rather be on that podium but it’s a good first race for us here. I want to keep my podium streak here but we’ll get another chance (Sunday).

“Pit stops were key and my guys did a great job. We put a good solid run together there to finish fourth. That was a tough race. Literally it hurt my bones. The kick back in the steering wheel is so rough that my wrists are just aching.”

Dixon finished 19th after suffering electrical issues in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, but not before setting a track record lap of 1 minute, 14.6675-seconds (113.302 mph) on Lap 30.

Pagenaud retains the championship lead after seven of 16 races with 313 points. Castroneves is second heading into Sunday’s second race with 254 points, ahead of Dixon (247), Carlos Munoz (227), Josef Newgarden (227), Montoya (223) and rookie Alexander Rossi (223), who finished 10th, six days after winning the 100th Indianapolis 500 for team co-owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta.



DETROIT – Results Saturday of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans Race 1 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (13) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 70, Running
2. (16) Conor Daly, Honda, 70, Running
3. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 70, Running
4. (10) Graham Rahal, Honda, 70, Running
5. (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 70, Running
6. (5) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 70, Running
7. (15) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 70, Running
8. (8) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 70, Running
9. (7) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 70, Running
10. (17) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 70, Running
11. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 70, Running
12. (20) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 70, Running
13. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 70, Running
14. (14) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 70, Running
15. (12) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 70, Running
16. (19) Marco Andretti, Honda, 69, Running
17. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 69, Running
18. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 65, Running
19. (6) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 56, Electrical
20. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 44, Mechanical
21. (18) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 8, Contact
22. (22) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 0, Mechanical
Race Statistics:
Winner’s average speed: 97.857
Time of Race: 1:40:51.6838
Margin of victory: 2.0401 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 8 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Pagenaud 1 – 23
Power 24 – 28
Montoya 29 – 31
Pagenaud 32 – 43
Montoya 44 – 53
Dixon 54
Bourdais 55 – 57
Daly 58 – 61
Bourdais 62 – 70

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 313, Castroneves 254, Dixon 247, Munoz 227, Newgarden 227, Montoya 223, Rossi 223, Hinchcliffe 217, Kanaan 214, Kimball 213.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 4 2016
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