Bourdais Dominates IndyCar Series At Milwaukee Mile

Sebastien Bourdais celebrates with his kids in victory lane at the Milwaukee Mile. [Russ Lake Photo]

Sebastien Bourdais celebrates with his kids in victory lane at the Milwaukee Mile. [Russ Lake Photo]

They say that the Milwaukee Mile is a track that’s difficult to pass on; get behind and it’s hard to gain back spots they’ll tell you.

But Sunday at the ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 Verizon IndyCar Series race, Sebastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves both proved that old wives’ tale to be wrong; wrong in a big way.

Coming from an 11th starting spot due to a car that “didn’t have the wheels touching the ground” during qualifying, but had a race set-up that proved to be good, Bourdais “wasn’t worried about our performance during the race, but it looked like it was going to be hard to pass” on the flat, tight-turned mile.

His race run was good as he drove his KVSH Racing Chevrolet into the lead by lap 101, lapped the field at one point and led later for the final 62 circuits to beat the charging Castroneves by 2.236 sec.

“The car felt pretty good off the truck and I thought that this could be a pretty good weekend. And then we messed up qualifying,” admitted the winner of 34 Indy car events, “but never did I think we could come up through the field and pass everybody. It’s just unbelievable. When the car is right, it’s so, so special.”

But Castroneves had perhaps an even more spectacular ride through the field, a run that was forced on the team after they were penalized for being late to take their place in the qualifying line.

“I had to start in the back because we had a little miscue, but we never lost faith. We focused on the race,” a race that the Team Penske Chevrolet driver never led as he was busy passing the hoard of cars ahead of him on his way to a second-place finish. “I was pushing to the limit, no question. The 11 car (Bourdais) was very fast and you know how tough it is to pass here. I never had a clear lap. I heard during the race that he lapped the whole field at one point, but my teammate Will (Power) was the hardest one to pass to be honest.”

Graham Rahal finished third but led just five laps after starting sixth in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda and moved up a spot (to a tie for third) in the point standings for the second week in a row.

“We were looking to do the race in three stops and I think we were the only ones who could do it. Our Honda gave us really super fuel mileage. We went 10 more laps than some of the others on our first stop. We bailed on it for some reason but the way the yellows worked it was fine. We were actually quicker than Helio at the end. We just couldn’t get around him. We’re (tied) for third in the championship so it’s a good points day.”

Points-leader Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth after slowing for a drive-through penalty for a pit speed violation and pole-winner Josef Newgarden fell to fifth though he led the race for 109 laps early-on.

“It was completely my fault on the pit speeding penalty. That put us behind a bit. With about 120 laps to go I told the guys that we should try to make it on one more stop and we did,” explained Montoya who has led the points’ race all season. “Early on we could keep up with Bourdais but we made some changes at the end and the car wasn’t as good.”

Newgarden, who was thrilled with his first series pole, ran off and hid at the start but fell behind and had aero trouble as he struggled to catch up.

“The car was fast all weekend. I just needed clean air more than the other guys. When we had it in the beginning we were the fastest car for sure,” noted Newgarden who at one point went from seventh to second place in three laps after a restart on lap 141 and later passed both Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon with just 18 circuits remaining. “I got loose behind Montoya and lost it and he got me and then the same thing happened to Dixon. So no one was good in dirty air and it was all about track position.”

So the happy KVSH team celebrated Bourdais’ somewhat unexpected victory. When you beat Penske, Ganassi and Andretti with an under-funded and under-manned team, the win is even more satisfactory-especially for team principal Jimmy Vasser.

“It’s just awesome to win here at Milwaukee because it’s such a historic place. It was one of my favorite places when I was racing here. In the fashion he did it…he lapped the field (at one point)…it was awesome.”

And as the winner celebrated with his family in victory lane, a place he hadn’t visited in Milwaukee since 2006, it hit him that he was now a bit older but still on top of his game.

“I’m 36 years-old and I don’t think I’ve been any better than I am now. Sometimes you’ve got it and when it’s right, boy, it’s really, really good.”

And today, nine years after that last win here, he was still that good.

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