Chase-eligible teams – but not drivers – allowed at Homestead tire test

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With Goodyear setting a tire test for Aug. 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, you’d figure that drivers set for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup would be all over that opportunity.

After all, Homestead is where the last four drivers standing in the Chase will duke it out in a winner-take all battle for the championship in the Nov. 16 Ford EcoBoost 400.

But while NASCAR will invite Chase-eligible teams to take part in the Aug. 26 test on the 1.5-mile oval in South Florida, the sanctioning body has said that Chase-eligible drivers will be barred from the session.

As the Associated Press notes, that creates a problem for Team Penske, which will have to look beyond its two Cup drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, for the Homestead test since they’ve both already qualified for the post-season.

However, Penske may not have to look very far. This test could be a job for Ryan Blaney, who has competed part-time for them this year in the Nationwide Series (three Top-5s, six Top-10s in seven starts).

He also has some experience in a Cup car, as he made his top-level debut for the team earlier this year at Kansas.

Issues could also arise for Hendrick Motorsports if its fourth driver, Kasey Kahne, finds a way to qualify. Its other three drivers – Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson – have already locked themselves in. So, if Kahne qualifies, they too will have to look for a sub.

Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing has also qualified, while his two teammates, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., have not. Unless Biffle and Stenhouse each find a way to win over the next four races – and that would appear to be an iffy prospect at best – you’d figure RFR can use one of these two for the Homestead test.

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.