Roller coaster day for Bourdais at Watkins Glen ends in fifth

Photo: IndyCar
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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.