Sebastien Bourdais, A.J. Foyt team up for legendary IndyCar combination

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

This time of year is usually one of hope for St. Petersburg, Florida, resident Sebastien Bourdais. The NTT IndyCar Series veteran is usually the de facto host driver of the event. Bourdais is also a two-time winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

But this is an unusual time for the only driver to win four consecutive Champ Car Series championships.

Bourdais will not be a full-time IndyCar Series driver in 2020. Instead, he will compete in just four races this season for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Bourdais was blindsided by the decision last November that led to him losing his ride at Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan. Because Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda did not score any manufacturer points in 2019, team owner Dale Coyne lost a significant chunk of funding.

That forced Coyne into making a serious business decision. He decided to end his agreement with Bourdais. He moved Santino Ferrucci, 21, over to the Vasser and Sullivan side of the operation and hired highly touted Alex Palou for the No. 55 Honda.

Bourdais turned his attention to IMSA and signed a deal with JDC Miller Motorsports co-driving the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi with Joao Barbosa for 2020. He faced the prospect of being out of the IndyCar paddock when the season started.

Enter racing legend A.J. Foyt and his son Larry.

The Foyts will put Bourdais in the car for four races this season. Those include the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15, the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama on April 5, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19 and the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 6.

“It’s only four events, so you’ve got to perform right away,” Bourdais said. “You don’t have many ‘Jokers.’

Bourdais proved he could get up to speed quickly in 2017 and 2018 when he won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“It’s a very different set of circumstances from last year,” Bourdais said. “I wasn’t expecting that, but you have to make the best of every situation, and it’s worked out pretty good. The full program in DPI (in IMSA) and four races with A.J. Foyt Racing and reuniting with Chevrolet. It’s pretty exciting.

“It’s kind of in rebuilding phase with A.J. Foyt and trying to see how we can turn the thing around and get some good results. Bringing Mike Colliver and Mike Pawlowski is going to be a huge help on the engineering side. That’s quite exciting.”

Bourdais will be in the famed No. 14 Chevrolet at AJ Foyt Racing. Veteran driver Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, will drive that car in the oval races on the schedule, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais began his career driving for Newman-Haas Racing with team owners Paul Newman and Carl Haas in 2003. Seventeen years later, he is with the legendary Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver and longtime team owner.

“It’s a huge honor,” Bourdais said of Foyt. “You can feel that responsibility to deliver. Tony (Kanaan) mentioned it time and time again when you fly the flag, you feel like you’ve got to give back to him. It’s his name on it, it’s his legacy, it’s his team. You feel quite strong responsibility.

“Bring it back to the point you were mentioning at the beginning, it’s ironic you start your career at Newman-Haas Racing with Paul Newman and Carl Haas and end up driving AJ Foyt’s car on the later part of your career.

“I’m feeling pretty lucky.”

Bourdais could use a little luck, especially after the way he lost his ride on Nov. 5, 2019.

“I think given the right equipment, we’ve been performing well anywhere, but those four venues are definitely a few places I very much enjoy,” Bourdais said. “When Larry (Foyt) came up with the opportunity and selected races, there were different circumstances that prevented doing more, but I told him I’ll do whatever I can to help you.

“I was really honored that they provided that chance to me to stay in IndyCar. Just to keep a foot in it and see what comes in the future.”

One big race missing from Bourdais’ limited schedule is the Indy 500. Currently, Foyt’s Indy 500 lineup is full, and Kanaan has the Indy 500 as one of his races in the No. 14.

Bourdais admits he is looking for an Indy 500 deal.

Getty Photo

“As of right now, it’s not part of the plans, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t working on things so it’s in the papers,” Bourdais said. “We’ll see what comes up and if it happens, but for the moment, it’s not the focus and not set by any means.”

Bourdais is a savvy veteran who has 37 career victories.

But he realizes he doesn’t have “next week” to make up for a bad race. He has to make the most of his four-race opportunity.

“You’re your own worst enemy in those days when you try to overachieve,” Bourdais admitted. “I’ve been there before where you are trying so hard to make something happen because maybe the equipment is not quite up to par or because this year you have only so many opportunities to show what you can do.

“You’ve got to balance your aggression and how many chances you take and what you do.

“Ultimately, I’m a true believer that you obviously can’t carry those things around. You can only give your very best, and that’s 100 percent. Once you try to do more than that, only bad things come your way.”

By realizing that before the season ever starts, don’t bet against this guy, even if he is driving for a team that has to return to relevance to be competitive again.

“We’ll just be focused,” Bourdais said. “We’ll work very hard with the team to get the team to the level they want to perform. And then, obviously, the execution is the last part, which is the critical part of the result when you put yourself in the seat and it’s a possibility to achieve a result.

“First of all, you need to get the team where they want to be and get the car in the groove and have the potential to even compete at the level you want to be at.”

If Bourdais is able to put Foyt’s No. 14 back toward the front, that could create a pathway back to a full-time ride. After all, Bourdais emphasized he did not expect to be in this position before he was given the bad news by Dale Coyne in November.

“There’s no intention to retire from IndyCar racing,” Bourdais said. “It’s the end of the deal in late November, and there wasn’t anything at all, and that opportunity came about, it was as good as it was going to get. I had to find a rescue mission on the IMSA side, which I was extremely grateful.

“Everything on top of that was the cherry on top of the cake. Maybe we can put a few more cherries on top of the cake.

“As far as the future is concerned, it’s definitely wide open. I hope I’ll be able to prove this year that I still belong there and can keep going a few more years. But who knows? If it’s the end, it’s the end. I’ve got a mission to help the team whichever way I can. We started working at the simulator with Chevy. Both Mikes and the whole team is pretty pumped up.

“We’ll try to live up to the expectations and deliver.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500