McMurray settles for fourth after pushing for Sonoma win

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Today at Sonoma Raceway, Jamie McMurray threatened to become the 11th different winner in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup campaign before finishing fourth after starting on pole.

McMurray was pressuring eventual winner Carl Edwards for the lead when a caution came out with 20 laps to go after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun following contact with Brian Vickers.

But that meant McMurray still had an opportunity to pass Edwards on the subsequent restart with 16 laps left. Unfortunately for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, he made a mistake after the green came back out.

“I’m happy that I’m mad that I finished fourth, if that makes any sense,” he said afterwards. “I thought I had a chance to win but when the last caution came out I was working Carl there a little bit, and I was just waiting on him to make a mistake. I felt like I was better than he was.

“And when we went back green, after the caution, I just used up too much car in [Turns] 1 and 2 and spun the tires really bad and paid the penalty for that the remainder of the run.”

Eventually, Jeff Gordon got by McMurray for second position with nine laps to go and Dale Earnhardt Jr. peeled third away from him a short time later.

At that point, McMurray appeared to know that his ebbing chances of victory had gone away entirely.

“I could see how fast [Earnhardt] was catching me and I came on the radio and I’m like, ‘Is he on a different strategy than we are?’ And [the team] was like, ‘Yeah,'” McMurray said.

“So, when he caught me, I didn’t really put up a fight because I knew that he was going to get by. I was more worried about the No. 27 [Paul Menard]. He was another ten seconds back, if he was going to be able to catch me at the end.”

Menard could not do so, leaving McMurray with his final result. The fourth-place finish is his second Top-5 and third Top-10 in the last five races, and he hasn’t finished worse than 13th in that stretch.

McMurray and the No. 1 CGR crew are beginning to pick it up as they seek to get into proper Chase contention.

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.