Photo: IndyCar

Bourdais sustains several fractures in qualifying accident at Indy


INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais has been diagnosed with multiple fractures to his pelvis and a fracture to his right hip following an incident today while attempting to qualify for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, INDYCAR announced late Saturday.

Additionally, according to INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows, Bourdais will undergo surgery on his pelvis this evening at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

“Sebastien is in good hands here at IU Methodist Hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover,” Bourdais’ team owner, Dale Coyne, said in a release.

The first day of qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil was interrupted – literally and emotionally – by Bourdais’ heavy accident just over halfway through the field of 33’s first and only attempts to run on Saturday.

Bourdais was the 19th driver to take to the track, driving the newly sponsored No. 18 GEICO Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. With his practice pace all week, Bourdais was a legitimate threat to make the Fast Nine shootout on Sunday.

He ran the two fastest laps of the day, at 231.472 and an even quicker 231.595 mph, before it all went wrong in Turn 2. The back end snapped and as Bourdais turned right to correct it, wound up going in straight into the Turn 2 SAFER barrier at almost a direct head-on impact.

That snapped the car and turned it over, before the car came right side up. It was a jarring impact that immediately cast a pall – and a silence – over the usually noisy Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and raised immediate concerns among the IndyCar fraternity.

Dale Coyne Racing teammate Ed Jones, who only barely got knocked out of the Fast Nine shootout following JR Hildebrand’s late run, said simply, “Yeah, at the moment we’re just hoping the best for Seb after the crash. Hopefully we hear some better news soon.”

Scott Dixon, one of the leaders of the IndyCar community, is very close to Bourdais. Bourdais and Dixon are teammates in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT program in sports cars, and race in separate cars at endurance races in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans, the latter of which is next month.

Dixon said had Bourdais completed his run without incident, there was a good chance he would have been at the top of the sheets today.

“The one that obviously stood out for me during the whole week was Bourdais. Thinking of him, hoping he’s okay. It was definitely a big hit. Hopefully he should be fine,” Dixon said.

“But I think he was definitely going to be the one that had a clear advantage I think over the rest of the field. So I feel bad for that.”

Ed Carpenter, who ended the day fastest, said he continued to wish for Bourdais’ fast recovery. He also said you need to put incidents to the back of mind after they happen and press on.

“It takes your breath away. I was watching it in the garage. That’s one of the biggest single-car qualifying crashes I’ve seen around here,” Carpenter admitted.

“As soon as I saw him correct and the angle he was going in at, you knew it was going to be big. I’m hoping he’s okay. It was good to see him moving around the amount we did see him moving around. Hopefully we’ll get some good news tonight.

“But things like that happen. I love doing this. I love being here. I’m sure Scott is no different. When you do it for this long, you see a lot of things happen, it’s something you talk to your family about, and you’re all committed in together.

“When you get in the car and put your helmet on, it all goes away. We’re out there to do a job, to entertain the fans, do the best job we can for our team and sponsors.

“It does take your breath away when you see it. When you get out there and get into battle again, it all goes away.”

Like Bourdais, another recent Formula 1 driver-turned-IndyCar full-timer in Max Chilton explained just how finite the knife edge is. Had he not lifted on his third of four laps, he may have met a similar fate in the wall as Bourdais did.

“You’re only ever a mph away from a problem around here. It’s difficult,” Chilton told NBC Sports. “We trimmed out – which is risky – but if you got that extra step, maybe you’re quick for one or two laps but the tires start to wear out and the wind gets stronger, and you’re off.

“I actually lifted into Turn 2, where Bourdais went off; I turned late and had a bit of understeer so it looked like I was going straight into the wall – and that was a 228 – but then the next lap I got into the high 229s. It’s so close.”

Quickly proving he cares about the new IndyCar community he is a part of, at least for one race, even Fernando Alonso was serious to ensure Bourdais’ health was all that mattered.

“That’s the most important thing of today, you know, that Sebastien is okay,” Alonso said. “He seems to be okay. Yeah, definitely I was doing the interviews when the crash happened. I need to see more precise what happened. It seems the car went loose into one, he lost control unfortunately.

“But, yeah, as I said, he seems okay. I know him from F1 time, and also yesterday we were talking in the casino, in the event, all together about the cars, about how he feels here, how fast he was on Friday. He was still very fast today until lap two.

“Hopefully everything is okay with him. Quick recovery, and welcome him back here at the track as soon as possible, if not tomorrow, in the next days.”

Alonso’s thoughts are well received. Meanwhile, others in the rest of the IndyCar world have weighed in on Twitter.

On Friday, Bourdais was asked about ups-and-downs in his season – he led the points after three races with a win, second and eighth, then has had back-to-back DNFs in the two races since, and has had two engine failures in the last week. He just said at the time, that’s the process of racing.

“Just have days like that. It’s what this season has been for us so far,” Bourdais said on Friday. “We’ve had really good days and really pretty terrible days. But the good thing is, you know, when we’re given the opportunity, we seem to make the best of it. The car is quick. We’re having a good time.

“It’s racing. You are always going to have ups and downs. You just keep plugging away and just do your thing. Eventually hopefully it all averages out and you get more good days than bad ones.”

The most important thing is that good ones lie ahead in Bourdais’ recovery process.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
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NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”