Bourdais dominant, yet reflective in authoritative second win at Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE – Sebastien Bourdais summed up the challenge of the Milwaukee Mile immediately after his qualifying run earlier Sunday afternoon.

“It doesn’t take a lot to take a little bit out and have the car turn into a piece of evil crap,” Bourdais told MotorSportsTalk, oh so bluntly and oh so candidly.

“But I think we have a really good race car. We’ll see what happens because it was definitely not the qualifying run we were hoping for.”

Boy, were those words prescient.

Bourdais rather quietly climbed from 11th on the grid up to sixth by Lap 18 in Sunday’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers, driving the No. 11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet.

So he was starting to factor into the race, but hadn’t fully materialized among the leaders until Lap 81, when he was up to third place.

A gamble on pit strategy vaulted Bourdais into the lead almost by accident, as he missed pit in. But it put him P1 and into clean air by Lap 117.

And that’s when the can of “Seabass Whoop-ass” was unleashed on the field.

Bourdais launched into a virtuoso master class from there, as he led 117 of the final 134 laps en route to a dominant victory reminiscent of the old days in Champ Car.

The thing was, he didn’t just lead, but he was running at a clip faster than seemed humanly possible over the second half of the race.

Over the course of a stint, Bourdais would run anywhere from four to even eight to 10 mph per lap faster than the rest of the field.

A restart occurred on Lap 141 following the second caution flag of the race. By Lap 148, Bourdais’ gap to second was 6.9228 seconds; three laps later it was 10.3369.

It grew and grew from there to north of 20 seconds, and then a full lap, on the field.

A late caution nearly sabotaged Bourdais’ race, but even on older tires and still with the clean air, he held on for the final 18 green flag laps. Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal got into podium positions, but no closer to Bourdais.

All the while, Bourdais knew he had a dominant car, and was thankful to the team to be able to exploit it on the day.

“It’s one of those days where just everything works out,” he said post-race. “We knew we had a really good car this morning. In traffic we felt strong. We could run the bottom, move forward. They were bubbling up on the outside. I thought maybe we could do something today.

“In the meantime, I was like, ‘Boy, only did 10 laps, running in clean air, we’re going to be able to go quick.’ I was thinking, ‘Not so bad.’ Sure enough, another yellow came out. I’m thinking, ‘Boy, that’s not looking very good.’

“At that point I just said, ‘All right, I’m going to have fun in the car, enjoy the clean air, run quick, and we’ll see what happens.’ And that worked out pretty good.”

Bourdais chronicled the stint where he knew he had to push like hell, and essentially go into full rabbit mode, to ensure he banked enough of a gap to pit and not lose his track position.

“The next sequence was the crucial one. When I came out of the pits, boiling, on a mission. They all had to save fuel. They had significantly older tires than me. They didn’t have the pace at that time because they had to drive a pace to save fuel and make it. There was no more yellow to make their life any easier. At that point they were trapped in their own strategy.

“So I just run like hell and start passing one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Here we go, leading the race again. I was like, ‘Man, that’s just awesome.’

“Yeah, after that never looked back, I was pretty much in control from there. Not making mistakes. We didn’t have time to make an adjustment for the last stop, we were really free at the end. At that point I was running in front of the pack and I really didn’t need to do anything crazy to make anything happen.”

The win was Bourdais’ second of the season, second at Milwaukee (2006) and 34th of his North American open-wheel career, which tied Al Unser Jr. for seventh on the all-time list.

Reflecting back on it, Bourdais acknowledged how much tougher the competition is, and how much more on form he is now in his third full season back (fifth since 2011, and 10th overall) in the championship.

“I respect the stats because you put yourself on a very special list with very respected and great drivers,” he said. “But I don’t live for stats. I don’t look and contemplate myself. It’s not me.

“It’s a very competitive field. When you look who can win every weekend, it’s actually not so easy.

“Certainly I’ve dominated series and seasons when there were five, six cars that could really give me a run for my money.

“Now it’s like 15 cars can win every race. So you really got to step up your game. It’s a heck of a lot harder to win races, especially when you’re not in the big buck team anymore.”

Still, Bourdais has been on form this year and showcased the glory days once more on Sunday at a track where history is the word most commonly used to describe the place.

It’s another note Bourdais reflected on post-race, the fact his win came at the venerable Mile, his first oval win since that race nine years ago.

“It’s the roots of IndyCar,” he said. “It’s that special oval that nobody likes in the racing business except IndyCar because it fits our racing style. It’s something different.”

Bourdais dominating on an oval is also something different, but was something to behold on Sunday.

NHRA: Steve Torrence’s 2nd Top Fuel title was emotional roller coaster day

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There’s no question Steve Torrence is a proud Texan. When he’s not strapping on his racing helmet, the Kilgore, Texas resident proudly wears a black cowboy hat and shiny boots practically everywhere he goes.

It’s just part of who one of the Lone Star State’s favorite sons is.

Torrence also has a great deal to be proud of after winning his second consecutive Top Fuel championship in Sunday’s NHRA season-ending national event at Pomona, California.

In doing so, he joins seven of the biggest names in drag racing history to win back-to-back titles: Don Garlits, Joe Amato, the late Scott Kalitta, Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Antron Brown.

Torrence followed up last season’s 11 wins – including being the first driver to win all six Countdown to the Championship playoff races – with nine wins in 2019, giving him 36 career wins and 55 final round appearances in his career.

But as he was interviewed shortly after he clinched the championship — even though he lost in the semifinal round of eliminations — instead of being effusive and ecstatic, Torrence was also uncharacteristically somewhat solemn and melancholy at the same time.

After publicly thanking his team – “the best in the business,” as Torrence frequently says – he also quickly paid tribute to a young man from Texas by the name of Brandon Seegers, who was tragically killed in an ATV accident last week (the young man in glasses is pictured in the tweet below).

Torrence wanted the world to know who Brandon was, calling him one of Torrence Racing’s biggest fans. It wasn’t lip service. Brandon – a 15-year-old freshman football player at Carthage (Texas) High School – truly was one of Torrence’s biggest supporters. He’ll be buried Tuesday.

Torrence also paid tribute to Brandon’s parents. The young man’s father has worked 30 years for Capco Contractors Inc., an oil and gas company owned by Torrence’s family. In a sense, because of their close relationship, Brandon and his parents are extended members of the Torrence family.

“This is for the Seegers family, who lost their little boy the Wednesday of last week,” Torrence said. “He was the biggest Capco fan there was. We’re taking the championship trophy home to him. We’re going to give it to all the Capco guys and his family.”

Admit it, when was the last time you heard someone in sports win a championship and then dedicate that effort to a young fan who was tragically killed just a few days earlier in an accident.

But that’s the kind of guy Torrence is, one of the classiest individuals in motorsports. And if you don’t really know who he is, you should, because you might understand why Torrence is who he is.

At the age of 36, Torrence is not just a survivor of the 1,000-foot dragstrips wars from New Hampshire to Seattle to Phoenix to Gainesville and everywhere in-between.

He’s also a survivor of something much more important: Before he was Steve Torrence, two-time NHRA Top Fuel champ, he was Steve Torrence, cancer and heart attack survivor. That kind of thing gives someone a much different perspective than most other individuals.

Torrence knows how fortunate he is to not only be a two-time champion, but more importantly, to be alive to earn and enjoy both of those titles. He came close, really close, to not being here anymore. That’s why Brandon’s death hit Torrence so hard.

He even tried to keep from choking up when he told the crowd about who his young friend Brandon was.

Torrence spent much of the weekend at Pomona thinking about his young fan. It definitely affected Torrence’s mindset and demeanor, especially on Sunday, with the pressure packed championship on the line.

To illustrate how different Torrence acted, he was involved in an incident after the first round that was completely out of character. While he may be one of the most competitive drivers on the NHRA circuit, he’s also normally a very level-headed, calm and cool persona.

Torrence uncharacteristically slapped young opponent and part-time Top Fuel driver Cameron Ferre in the face at the end of the drag strip after they climbed from their race cars following their first round run and exchanged words.

Normally a fan favorite, Torrence was uncharacteristically criticized on social media and was met with a wave of fan boos after the race when he climbed on stage to accept his championship trophy and the big check that came with it. A contrite Torrence eventually issued a public apology to both Ferre and fans, admitting he was wrong. The NHRA is reviewing the incident and still could penalize Torrence.

“Tensions are high,” Torrence told NHRA.com. “There’s a lot of crap going on out there, but there’s still no excuse for me acting that way. I apologize to every fan, all my racing friends and racing rivals. It was a heat-of-the moment reaction on a day when emotions were high, especially in the Capco camp. I talked to Cameron and we’ll just put it behind us and move on.”

Given the championship pressure and what he was enduring emotionally, Sunday may not have been Torrence’s finest moment or best day professionally or personally. But at the same time, he further cemented why he’s on his way to becoming one of the best drivers in Top Fuel history, that he makes mistakes and was man enough to admit when he made one.

He also cares for others and what they go through perhaps more than most because he himself came so close to not being around to enjoy the success he has enjoyed to date – and all the additional success that he’s likely to continue to enjoy for many more years to come.

 

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