Normally, it would be a bit odd to see the second-place driver doing burnouts as if he had won the race. But after being unable to log a Top-10 result in the IZOD IndyCar Series’ first 11 races this season, Sebastien Bourdais can be excused for his smoky donuts after his runner-up performance in Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto weekend.
“It just feels like after everything we went through, to be on the podium just feels like a million wins,” Bourdais told NBC Sports Network after claiming his first podium finish since winning the 2007 Champ Car season finale at Mexico City to cap off his fourth consecutive series title.
“I can’t thank these guys enough for giving me the opportunity and for sticking with me. It’s been a rough ride so far, so hopefully, we can turn this thing around and it’s all good from now on.”
Equally jubilant was his Dragon Racing team owner, Jay Penske, whose team has battled through a trying campaign up to this point with Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra.
“It’s just an incredible feeling for our whole team,” Penske said to NBCSN. “We’ve worked so hard for it. This is just a great step forward for the team.”
Bourdais started second and was a contender throughout the day. He took the lead from pole sitter Dario Franchitti on Lap 22 and held it until just after the first cycle of pit stops ended, when Will Power got by him for P1 at Lap 32.
The Frenchman was running in third up to his final stop at Lap 63, which enabled him to get by Will Power for second place but also placed him on the quicker-but-softer red alternate tires. A restart at Lap 65 bunched up the field, and on the restart at Lap 70, Bourdais got the jump on leader Scott Dixon.
However, with no push-to-pass boosts left to protect his lead, Bourdais was unable to hold off a hard-charging Dixon on the black primary tires. Using one of his two remaining boosts on the back stretch, Dixon made the race-winning pass on Bourdais with eight laps remaining.
But that did nothing to dampen the spirits of Bourdais afterwards, who admitted that being at the front was a nerve-wracking experience.
“It was like, ‘What’s gonna happen again?’,” he said. “I was just so stressed out because we’ve had so many good runs but never the end result. It just feels so sweet to be here right now.”
The only real issue for Bourdais this afternoon would appear to be his runner-up trophy, as the crystal cup fell off the base and smashed to pieces just after he claimed it (see above).
One awkward moment later, he simply raised the base to the cheers of the crowd. Trophies can be broken, but the memories of today will surely endure for one of American open-wheel racing’s finest.