IndyCar: Hawksworth adds to GP of Indy intrigue with outside pole

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The other half of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis surprise front row, alongside polesitter Sebastian Saavedra, is rookie Jack Hawksworth in the No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Hawksworth put in quite a bounce back effort from starting second-to-last (22nd) in Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago, his first permanent road course race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Now, he has second on the grid but more importantly his third top-10 start in four races.

And yet he’s optimistic and hungry for more if he can get the jump on Saavedra from the front row.

“We have very good pace. I’m actually quite excited,” the Bradford, U.K. native said of having the snarling pack of 23 other IndyCars behind him heading into Turn 1. “I think the car is very good. We have a clear track ahead. If we can get Saavedra at the first corner, we’ll try and pull away, see what we can do.”

Hawkworth reckoned he, along with the rest of the Firestone Fast Six runners, had more time in hand before Ryan Hunter-Reay’s accident off Turn 14 ended the session.

“I think everybody had a lot more on the table,” he said. “I think the fastest lap was going to be on the last lap. Everybody was pretty quick.”

Once more, Hawksworth extolled the virtues and work of his Bryan Herta/Steve Newey-led team. Like Josef Newgarden at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, this is the case of a young driver on a single-car team doing wonders to punch above their weight.

“In some ways it’s good, get through the politics,” he said regarding the lack of a teammate. “To be honest, I’m working very well with the team. They’re giving me what I want.

“I think I’m able to kind of lead them in the right direction with the car, as well. I’m not too worried about not having a teammate. I kind of like it.

“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season with them. We started the season out quite strong. There’s been glimmers of speed and potential. Not all quite there yet, but hopefully tomorrow is the day when we do to.”

In three races Hawksworth has been taken out twice by accidents not of his own doing, and finished 12th at Barber. He has his best chance to score his first series top-10 finish, if not do more, on Saturday in the Charter/Energee entry.

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.