Coyne crew rallies to rebuild Bourdais’ chassis for INDYCAR GP

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – After sustaining heavy damage at the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on April 29, the fourth race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda has been repaired ahead of this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which is just a two-day event on Friday and Saturday.

Owing in part to Coyne’s limited resources, the goal of repairing Bourdais’ car from the first lap accident at Phoenix was one the team had in mind coming into this race, before the Indianapolis 500.

Team owner Dale Coyne told NBC Sports after Phoenix while Bourdais’ car was not tubbed – meaning a total write-off – there was significant damage to all four corners of the car, which required a thrash to get back fully going.

“It’s not tubbed, but it’s everything but the tub. We broke all four corners and both undertrays. It’s pretty bad,” Coyne said at Phoenix.

Coyne later told Trackside Online at the Gateway Motorsports Park test last week he expected the repair cost to be “north of $250,000.” A further analysis of the crew rebuild from Bourdais’ engineer Craig Hampson and crew chief Todd Phillips in a piece authored by Motorsport.com’s David Malsher.

Bourdais then shared the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with Ed Jones at the Gateway test last week, so this week will mark his first time back in the No. 18 car since its been repaired.

From the team release, “Thanks to a great job by the DCR crew, Bourdais will be able to get back behind the wheel of the #18 Sonny’s BBQ car that suffered major race ending damage at the start of the previous round in Phoenix.

“With his car now as good as new, Bourdais is looking to return to his season-opening form this weekend, while rookie Jones hopes to continue making progress in what has been a promising rookie campaign so far.”

The Phoenix crash knocked Bourdais from the points lead to fourth in points, now 31 back of countryman Simon Pagenaud who’s first.

Bourdais banked a pair of fourth place finishes in the first two INDYCAR Grands Prix in 2014 and 2015, but retired early last year after first lap contact with Tony Kanaan. Jones, meanwhile, won one of two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races at the road course last year en route to winning the championship.

“It’s the beginning of May and the Indy Grand Prix is always an important event. Many times, it’s been a bit of a turning point in my season,” Bourdais said in the team’s release. “Sometimes we’d have a rough start to the year and then it would go relatively well at the Grand Prix. Except last year, when it ended a little prematurely with Tony (Kanaan) who didn’t see us coming from the outside at the start.

“Generally, I’ve always performed well at the INDYCAR Grand Prix. It’s a track that I enjoy and I hope things will go well for us. I think we’re starting to understand a lot of little things with our aero package and other things so hopefully we can put everything together and put in a performance that will meet our expectations in both qualifying and the race.”

Newgarden tries to regain control of IndyCar championship race at Iowa

Leave a comment

NEWTON, Iowa – There are just six races left in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship and Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden has a hard-charging Alexander Rossi closing in on his gearbox. Newgarden’s lead is down to just three points after last Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.

Newgarden has been the leader in the standings after every race this season, with the exception of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, when he trailed Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden by one point.

Is Newgarden worried entering Saturday night’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway?

“I’m confident we have good cars,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com. “You can have bad weekends here and there. I think we can have a good result the rest of the year. But there are a lot of guys still in it. Rossi is the guy who is the closest, but you can’t count out Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon or Will Power. It’s going to be a fight until the end for this championship.

“We briefly lost the points lead after the Indy 500. Simon and I were one point apart. We’ve had better consistency this year. That is what is going to pay off at the end. We’ve been consistent up to this point and we have to continue it to the end.

“Look at all of these championship runs, most of the times it goes to the most consistent driver. You have to have clean finishes for every run. If you don’t, it’s pretty tough to make up the deficit.”

Newgarden has had a remarkably consistent season with three wins, six podiums (top three) and nine top-five finishes in 11 races.

Rossi has nearly matched him with two wins, six podiums and nine top-five finishes in 11 races.

These two drivers are nearly in a dead heat, so as the championship leader, can Newgarden force his fiercest foes into making mistakes?

“I’m a little bit boring,” Newgarden said. “I do the same thing every time. It puts more pressure on guys like Scott Dixon, who has to win races to catch up. They are going to be more aggressive. Our program is boring and that is trying to maximize each race individually. That is what we have to do.

“I don’t know if it is that different than being in a fight with Will Power or Simon Pagenaud or Scott Dixon. They have different tendencies. Alex is the more aggressive of those other drivers. It’s fun going up against all of them. Alex is really good. He has a certain style you have to play against. If it was Scott, it would be just as exciting, but it would be a different game.

“Alex brings a more aggressive side to the conversation.”

That aggressive fight continues to the .875-mile short oval at Iowa Speedway, site of Saturday night’s Iowa 300.

It’s one of Newgarden’s better tracks. He set an IndyCar Series record for leading the most laps in a single race when he was in front for 282 laps in his 2016 Iowa win with Ed Carpenter Racing. That was preceded by two straight second place finishes at Iowa in 2014 and 2014.

Since joining Team Penske in 2017, Newgarden finished sixth that season and fourth in 2018 in a race where he led 211 laps.

“We were pretty good there last year,” Newgarden admitted. “We qualified well, but we were a little shy of what we needed last year. The race didn’t pan out the way we needed it to. Our strategy wasn’t perfect there. But those are things we can clean up. We have a really capable group. I think we’ll have a good car there, again. I feel good about it. We’ve had good cars there in the past, we were just a tick off. I think we will be better there this year.

“We should be fine.”

Short oval racing is a unique form that adds diversity to the schedule as drivers have to get on an off the accelerator and on and off the brake, all while dealing with traffic throughout the 300-lap contest.

It’s that type of close quarter racing that real racers love.

“Iowa, for sure is a racer’s track,” Newgarden said. “It’s very bumpy, with a lot of character. It’s one of my favorite short ovals that we go to. I love that place. A lot of the tracks we go to are racer’s race tracks. There aren’t a lot of bad ones of the schedule. There are tracks with diverse challenges and you like that. Going from Toronto to Iowa to Mid-Ohio, they are all different tracks that require different setups, different driving styles.

“It’s like the championship is a driver’s championship. That is what it demands.”

An NTT IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway is a special experience because it’s played out in front of grass-roots racing fans. These are the fans that following auto racing on a regular basis, many of which are regulars for sprint car racing down the road at Knoxville Speedway in Knoxville, Iowa.

“They are all different race fans,” Newgarden said. “Toronto has a bustling city vibe. Iowa is a bunch of farmers. Really nice people who are salt of the earth farmers who come out and enjoy racing. Mid-Ohio is a hybrid. It’s very much a Midwest race but different from Iowa.

“You get these different pockets of different fans, different people, different racers but they all like IndyCar racing and that’s pretty cool.”