Bourdais: “St. Pete could have been a very different weekend”

source: AP
Photo: AP

As we noted in the immediate aftermath of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago, for KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, it was good to be disappointed with sixth.

Bourdais was consistently the biggest thorn from the Chevrolet camp in Team Penske’s side over the course of the weekend, but as the driver of the No. 11 Hydroxycut/Mistic KVSH Racing Chevrolet assessed, his weekend could have gone even better.

“It was good we were in the mix, but all four of them (Penske cars) were so strong at the front,” Bourdais told MotorSportsTalk heading into this weekend’s Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. “That’s not good news.

“We were third in Q2, and felt like there was some unfinished business in Q3. The last lap was going to be very strong. I was almost two tenths up by Turn 4, then the car bottomed out, hit a bump, and that was that. It could have been very close to pole, who knows, but from there it’s a very different weekend.”

Bourdais chronicled the race from there and how that altered the race complexion.

“If you’re not there you don’t get bansaied; you’re not top nine, you’re top three. We could have been in a different spot, then TK got the podium, and I got back to P6.

“On a personal note, I felt I should have done better, but on the team side, we were pretty pleased. It was a good points day. Was it optimal? No. But if a bad day for us is P6, then that’s a good thing.”

Bourdais noted his rookie teammate, Stefano Coletti in his debut race in IndyCar, fought through some initial weekend trials and tribulations before charging during the race itself until a late-race splash-and-dash for fuel.

“He had a bit of a tough weekend; he wasn’t happy with the car, and they found some things not right on each side. They got the setup proper on Sunday morning, and then he got much happier in warmup,” Bourdais said.

“In the race, he was very strong. They turned him loose all race, he looked strong, but the fuel saving strategies others had showed at the end. He was four laps short. But he was aggressive, and made great restarts.

“Hopefully it’s just start of the season blues. Hes got the talent. The good thing and we liked we’ve talked about before, the feedback between us is similar. For one side or the other, it’s a good starting point.”

Bourdais previewed this weekend’s inaugural race at NOLA Motorsports Park, which will follow in a separate post. Both he and Coletti will have different liveries for this weekend’s race, with Bourdais’ No. 11 KVSH entry now in the full green and white Mistic colors.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”