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Roller coaster day for Bourdais at Watkins Glen ends in fifth

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Sebastien Bourdais had an eventful afternoon Sunday at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi, but still managed to finish fifth.

And on a day where he got caught up in the chaos of the first turn, caught air in the Inner Loop doing his best “Air France” pilot audition, and then caught up the rest of the field – including James Hinchcliffe, who ran out of fuel on the final lap of the race – it was quite a result for the driver of the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet.

The Turn 1 incident was a crazy moment, with a four-wide domino effect sending two drivers around.

Jack Hawksworth took his No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda to the inside of Max Chilton’s No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, but collided with his English countryman. That reportedly broke the steering on Chilton’s car, which he fought for the rest of the race.

Chilton then drifted up the road into Juan Pablo Montoya, which sent the driver of the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet around, and also knocked him into Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, who also spun.

Just ahead of them, Bourdais’ car was contacted by another car and he went around as well.

Here’s the view from Josef Newgarden’s car, which shows what all happened.

Bourdais was knocked to 22nd and last in the process, but without any damage, could afford to gamble on strategy the rest of the race.

He springboarded back into the midfield before another crazy moment happened, as he tried to split the gap between rookies Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi going into the Inner Loop.

As Bourdais tried to go past Daly, Daly defended into the first apex of the corner, which meant Bourdais then did a double curb hop on both of the first two corner apexes. He caught air on the second apex, but managed to save the car from contacting Rossi or the trailing Spencer Pigot.

Bourdais was not pleased with Daly after the race.

“I’m really not quite sure what Conor’s trying to play with there,” Bourdais told NBC Sports post-race. “If I’m not sensible enough in a situation… he was rolling into the middle of the Bus Stop and into [Turn] 1, there’s a moment where you have to give in. He doesn’t know where that is.

“This is not the first time I have had issues with him. This time it almost went really bad for the two of us.”

Both drivers had raced at Watkins Glen in sports cars the last several years, but this was both drivers’ first IndyCar start at “The Glen.”

That wasn’t it for the chaos that seemed to hit Bourdais all day. After saving enough fuel and then coming home in fifth – ironically, one spot behind Daly – Bourdais came upon the stranded Hinchcliffe as the Canadian had run out of fuel on the first lap.

“First time I’ve ever done that!” Bourdais said. “I saw him walking towards the track and I was right there. So I just stopped to pick him up.”

When the day was all said and done, Bourdais reflected on everything.

“I still don’t know what quite happened at the start. I got swallowed up,” Bourdais admitted. “It was really just a tough day. I had to recover. But in the meantime to finish top five out of a day like that is a heck of an achievement.”

Bourdais sits 12th in points with 364 points, 16 behind Hinchcliffe for 10th in the IndyCar standings heading into the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in two weeks.

The potential exists that could be his last start with KVSH Racing. A report over the weekend linked Bourdais to possibly signing with Dale Coyne Racing, and while the KVSH group would be keen to keep the Frenchman for a fourth season, they’re also not inclined to hold him back if he wants to make a move.

Coyne, meanwhile, got away with a line only he could say about his own team’s plans.

“It’s not March yet,” he deadpanned when I asked this weekend about his 2017 lineup.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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