Charlie Kimball scores first IndyCar win at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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American driver Charlie Kimball became the fourth first-time winner in this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship after pulling away in the closing laps to win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Kimball, 28, of Camarilllo, California, made the pass for the win with 17 laps remaining. Simon Pagenaud had pitted one lap previous from the lead and came out ahead of Kimball. But as the two raced down the backstretch on the 2.26-mile road course, Kimball pulled to the inside and managed to get past Pagenaud going into Turn 4.

“I knew we had the grip and we had hot tires and a little less fuel in the tank, so I knew that if I could get the run – as soon as I saw he was coming out of pit lane, I went to the overtake [boost] knowing if I could get some momentum going, I could go by him,” Kimball said to NBCSN.

“He tried to brake-check me or just go late to the throttle in the middle of [Turn] 2, but the Honda power just got me close enough to him that I could put it up the inside and take the spot. Then I just had to go clean home.”

Any chance for Pagenaud to reel Kimball back in as his tires warmed up quickly disappeared, and Kimball went on to his inaugural IndyCar win by 5.5 seconds over the Frenchman. It’s an especially impressive triumph, considering that he crashed his primary No. 83 Novo Nordisk Honda in a scary practice incident on Saturday morning and then utilized a three-stop strategy during today’s caution-free race.

“I can’t give enough credit to the guys at Chip Ganassi Racing – not just the Novo Nordisk crew but the Target guys yesterday to give me a car in qualifying to start in the Top 5 after I wrote off the primary in Turn 1 yesterday morning,” Kimball said. “They said ‘You gotta hit this target’ and all I had to do was drive the NovoLog Flexpen car to that number and she was quick. That’s all I had to do.”

Pagenaud didn’t think that Kimball would be able to pull off the move in Turn 4, but was nonetheless impressed.

“Man, that was a bold move,” said Pagenaud, one of those aforementioned four drivers who have notched their first IndyCar wins in 2013. “I didn’t think he would make it, but he did. It was a great move from him, and I can only congratulate him because honestly, I gave ’em hell today – 100 percent.”

TCGR’s Dario Franchitti completed an all-Honda podium with a solid third-place result ahead of Team Penske’s Will Power in fourth and pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay in fifth.

In the championship picture, points leader Helio Castroneves was able to come from 14th starting position to finish sixth – one spot ahead of Scott Dixon, who looked poised to gain on the Brazilian but instead lost some ground at the track where he’s won four times in his open-wheel career.

Heading into the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Castroneves now holds a 31-point lead over Dixon with five races remaining in the season.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (5) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
2. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
3. (6) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
4. (2) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
5. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
6. (14) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
7. (3) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
8. (7) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
9. (4) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
10. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
11. (9) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
12. (13) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
13. (10) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
14. (17) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
15. (16) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
16. (24) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
17. (11) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
18. (22) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
19. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
20. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
21. (21) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
22. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
23. (18) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 88, Running
24. (19) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 64, Off course

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 117.825 mph
Time of Race: One hour, 43 minutes, 29.1371 seconds
Margin of victory: 5.5334 seconds
Cautions: None
Lead changes: Five

Lap Leaders
Hunter-Reay, 1-30
Kimball, 31-41
Pagenaud, 42-47
Kimball, 48-64
Pagenaud, 65-72
Kimball, 73-85

Point Standings
1. Castroneves – 453
2. Dixon – 422
3. Hunter-Reay – 388
4. Andretti – 377
5. Pagenaud – 350
6. Franchitti – 342
7. Hinchcliffe/Kimball – 325
9. Wilson – 320
10. Kanaan – 313

Bourdais hopes last year’s crash turns into Indy 500 Cinderella story on Sunday

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Sebastien Bourdais has relived his May 20, 2017 crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying over and over in his mind, day after day, week after week and month after month.

He would think of the worst crash of his open-wheel racing career at least once — if not several times — a day, particularly when he’d experience a slight twinge of pain.

“I think about it every day,” Bourdais told MotorSportsTalk. “Even though I’m functionally 100 percent now, it’s still very rare that during the day that there’s not a little pinch or something that reminds me of what happened.”

But this past weekend while qualifying for this year’s 500, one year later, the French driver said he was finally able to work past the mental roadblock that just would not leave his mind.

The solution was simple: complete the task he wasn’t able to do so last year, namely, qualifying for the race – and qualifying well.

Bourdais will start fifth in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, in the middle of Row 2.

“(Last year’s crash is) still in my mind,” Bourdais said. “But I think the biggest hurdle, at least mentally, was qualifying last weekend, putting yourself back in the same set of circumstances, going back on the line there.

“It felt a little bit the same, chances of rain, some rain, delays, you get back in line, conditions change, everything gets harder because it gets hotter, but that’s the biggest hurdle to overcome. After that, it’s back to business.”

Bourdais has already won once in 2018 – the season-opening race in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida.

It helped jump start him to a strong overall run in the first five races of the season, including a fourth-place showing two weeks ago at the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Indianapolis, coupled with entering the 500 third in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

Now, he wants to win the biggest race of his career. If he does so, he’ll feel as if he finally and completely has come full circle from last year’s devastating wreck that shattered his pelvis, going head-on into the Turn 2 wall at a reported 228 mph.

“Well, it’s the Holy Grail of IndyCar, it doesn’t really get any bigger than that,” Bourdais said of the 500. “It’s the biggest achievement that you can accomplish in IndyCar.

“I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else: we all want to win it pretty bad, but I’m sure after what happened after last year, it’d be a Cinderella story.”

But there’s a caveat to Bourdais writing that story: “There’s 32 other drivers that want to accomplish the same thing, and it’s a one day event. We’ll give it our best shot … you can only give your very best and see what happens on that given day.”

Bourdais has a lot going for him heading into Sunday. First off, he’ll start from the highest qualifying position he’s ever had in what will be the seventh Indy 500 of the 39-year-old’s racing career.

Second, his confidence and comfort level are higher than they’ve ever been coming into the annual classic at the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.

Third, he’s forgiven himself – not IMS – for what happened last year. He has no ill feeling towards the racetrack, nor does he seek revenge. If he were to start thinking that way, it would serve no positive purpose.

“No. I’m not really that way,” he said when asked if he wants revenge over the racetrack. “The track didn’t beat me up, I beat myself.

“The bottom line is there were a couple of reasons why it happened, but I got more comfortable and more confident and confidence and comfort at some point just bite you at Indy.

“You just do your laps, you get into such a rhythm and the week had gone perfectly with an awesome car and there was not a doubt in my mind it was going to stick (going into Turn 2), and that’s when it happened – and I paid the price.”

So, Bourdais is simply going to go out and race, again, hoping to complete what he started last year before being so painfully derailed.

His best finish to date in the 500 has been seventh (2014). He just needs for his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser – Sullivan Honda to finish six places higher on Sunday.

And if he does, his move to Dale Coyne Racing last year – he’s competed in 13 of 23 races with two wins, 3 podiums and one pole – would only serve to make what already has proven to be a great move into a potentially brilliant move.

Because, yes, Bourdais isn’t just thinking Indy 500 win, he’s also thinking of a potential championship this season.

“I sure hope so,” Bourdais said when asked if his team’s success will continue. “I like to say it’s (the success that the Coyne camp has had since he came there) a little bit of my baby, bringing in Craig (engineer Craig Hampson) and Olivier (race engineer Olivier Boisson) and reinforcing the existing crew.”

Bourdais is no stranger to winning championships. He won four straight combined titles in CART and the Champ Car World Series from 2004 through 2007 (he also won 28 races in that four-year span).

“Obviously, it’s one thing to get into a winning team and basically meet expectations,” Bourdais said. “It’s another thing to try and build something and change the status of the underdog and turn him into a contender week in and week out.

“We got a glimpse of that last year, and this year, we’ve been competitive every weekend so far, and that’s a great feeling. Once you’re able to be competitive on street course, road courses, short ovals and superspeedways, then you can start saying and thinking championship.”

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