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Bourdais enjoys strong drive to sixth after starting last at Mid-Ohio

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It didn’t result in a victory, or even a top five, but Sebastien Bourdais had arguably the drive of the day during Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

A crash in qualifying forced Bourdais to start last on the grid in 24th, and while he started the day slowly, his charge to the front was ignited after his opening pit stop.

Bourdais was one of the first to pit, his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan team pitting him on Lap 11, and doing so put Bourdais in clean air and allowed him to set fast laps without being impeded.

As such, he was able to jump around drivers like Conor Daly and Charlie Kimball during the exchange of stops, and he was knocking on the door of the top 10 a third of the way through.

On Lap 35, Bourdais knocked that door down, making an outside pass on Zach Veach entering Turn 5 for tenth.

Indeed, Bourdais made a habit of using the outside line to make passes, as evidenced by the below overtakes on Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud.

And the relentless Bourdais did not let up in the final stint. The above pass on Pagenaud gave him seventh, and he made a similar move on Ryan Hunter-Reay to grab sixth in the final laps.

All told, Bourdais bulldozed his way from 24th all the way to sixth at the checkered flag.

Still, despite the strong effort, Bourdais couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if he didn’t have to come from last on the grid.

“Today was making up for a big mess up yesterday. It’s sad, as this car could have been a winner today with our pace,” Bourdais revealed.

“It was a heck of drive and I don’t think it gets much better than that going from 24th to 6th in a straight-up fight on a track that’s difficult to pass. Obviously, it was a lot of ‘what ifs’ that come to mind. Really happy with the day, but quite disappointed for the group as far as the weekend is concerned, as I think we could have been on the podium.”

The Frenchman now enters the two-week break ahead of the ABC Supply 500 (August 19, NBCSN) tenth in the standings, eight points ahead of Marco Andretti.

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Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.