Tony Kanaan not worried over slow start with Ganassi

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Tony Kanaan’s first two races for Target Chip Ganassi Racing could have gone better, but the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion isn’t perturbed.

Kanaan overcame a fuel mixture issue to finish sixth in the season opener at St. Petersburg, but was one of several drivers collected in a multi-car crash at Long Beach.

As a result, the Brazilian sits 11th early on in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, which makes its third stop of the season this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Last night on Indianapolis’ 1070 The Fan, Kanaan told Indianapolis Star writer Curt Cavin that the slow start to 2014 isn’t because he’s still acclimating to the Ganassi camp.

“I’m not gonna sit here and say ‘Oh, I need to get used to the team, I need to learn this or learn that,'” he said on “Trackside.” “It’s just the series is extremely competitive – and when I signed up for this deal, I knew it was not going to be easy.

“If anybody thought we were gonna win every race, that’s not the case. That’s not gonna happen. [That mindset is] not counting the good guys we have against us right now.

“I’m not where I want to be in the championship right now to be honest with you, but the good thing is we have a race this weekend and we can change that.”

Still, Kanaan figured that he and the rest of the field will likely have to go through IndyCar points leader Will Power and his own TCGR teammate, Scott Dixon, at Barber.

The Aussie and the Kiwi are perennially strong in Alabama. Power has two wins at Barber (2011, 2012), while Dixon has claimed four consecutive runner-up finishes there.

Facing such stiff competition, Kanaan acknowledged that he needed to step it up in the weeks ahead, which also include the series’ first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course and then preparations for the Indianapolis 500.

“To be honest, I think we definitely have to do a better job,” he said.  “That’s why I’m here [in Indy] this week, working with the team.

“It won’t be the first time that we have to turn our situation around. I actually work better under pressure.”

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.