Nearly 20 IndyCar-related 2013, 2014 drivers set for Rolex 24 next week

2 Comments

More than a dozen IndyCar or IndyCar-related drivers from 2013 and 2014 will be participating in next week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round to the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The confirmed 2014 IndyCar drivers in action include:

  • Simon Pagenaud (No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports, HPD ARX-03b, P class, 2nd start)
  • Sebastien Bourdais (No. 5 Action Express Racing, Corvette DP, P, 5th)
  • Justin Wilson (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 7th)
  • James Hinchcliffe (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 3rd)
  • Scott Dixon (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 11th)
  • Tony Kanaan (No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 3rd)
  • Ryan Briscoe (No. 3 Corvette Racing, Corvette C7.R, GTLM, 7th)
  • Graham Rahal (No. 56 BMW Team RLL, BMW Z4 GTLM, GTLM, 6th)
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 91 SRT Motorsports, SRT Viper GTS-R, GTLM, 8th)
  • Mikhail Aleshin (No. 72 SMP/ESM Racing, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

That’s 10 drivers right there. Then add in these drivers who competed in one or more IndyCar Series events in 2013:

  • Katherine Legge (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P, 2nd)
  • AJ Allmendinger (No. 60 Michael Shank Racing, Ford EcoBoost Riley, P, 9th)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 07 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D Coupe, P, 2nd)
  • Alex Tagliani (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 2nd)
  • Conor Daly (No. 08 RSR Racing, ORECA FLM09, PC, 1st)
  • James Davison (No. 007 TRG-AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, GTD, 1st)
  • Townsend Bell (No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD, 1st)

After those seven, the top two from Indy Lights in 2013 are making their Rolex 24 debuts:

  • Sage Karam (No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley, P)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 0 DeltaWing Racing Cars, DeltaWing DWC13, P)

Aleshin, Karam, Chaves, Daly, Davison and Bell are all making their Rolex 24 debuts. Considering Bell has been active in North America since the 1990s, his name on that list is the biggest surprise.

Four of the above drivers, Dixon (2006), Rahal (2011), Wilson and Allmendinger (2012) have overall wins at the Rolex 24. Dixon will be making his 11th straight Rolex 24 start with CGR.

Some other interesting tidbits: Hinchcliffe, by running a Mazda prototype, will have run three different types of Mazdas in three classes in three years (Mazda RX-8 in GT in 2012, Mazda6 in GX in 2013). Kanaan makes his third class appearance in as many starts, after running a GT1 Ford Mustang Cobra in 1998 and a Porsche GT3 Cup last year. Briscoe (six prior starts) and Hunter-Reay (seven) have only driven Daytona Prototypes; this year marks their first run in a GTE-spec car. Tagliani will start his first Rolex 24 since 2007, when he debuted in a Ford Mustang Cobra in the GT class.

Other IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball were part of the overall-winning team in 2013, but neither returns for 2014. Allmendinger has shifted back fully to NASCAR for 2014, but we’re including him in this list after his six races with Team Penske’s IndyCar program in 2013. There are others in the full entry list with past IndyCar or Indy Lights experience, but that would drag this post out even longer.

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski