April 15 in Motorsports History: Bourdais’ 3 in a row at Long Beach

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Sebastien Bourdais clearly knows his way around the streets of Long Beach.

The Frenchman entered the 2007 edition of the Long Beach Grand Prix as the two-time defending champion.

But Bourdais found himself in unfamiliar territory in the point standings entering that weekend. The three-time defending Champ Car champion was ranked 13th overall after crashing out of the season-opening Vegas Grand Prix.

Sebastien Bourdais celebrates with legendary filmmaker George Lucas after winning the 2007 Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

However, Bourdais proved that the Vegas race was a fluke.

After starting from the pole position at Long Beach, he led 58 laps and survived multiple restarts to win by 2.614 seconds over Oriol Servia, becoming the first driver to win three consecutive at Long Beach since Al Unser Jr. did it from 1989-91.

“I guess everything that could happen to us in Vegas happened, and here, the McDonald’s car showed what it could do,” Bourdais told NBC Sports in Victory Lane. “I can’t thank these (Newman-Haas Racing) guys enough because really they work their tails off.”

For the remainder of the 2007 season, Bourdais would continue to work his tail off, winning seven more times en route to his fourth consecutive Champ Car title. The following season, he moved to race for Toro Rosso in Formula One before eventually returning to IndyCar in 2011.

Also on this date:

1978: Danny Ongais won the Coors 200 at Texas World Speedway. Despite winning a series-high five races during the 1978 USAC Champ Car season, Ongais finished eighth overall in the final points standings because of 10 DNFs and missing the second race at Texas World in August.

1984: Tom Sneva won the Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, the first of three victories for the previous season’s Indianapolis 500 winner. Sneva finished second to Mario Andretti in the 1984 CART standings.

1993: Jack Harvey was born in Bassignham, England. Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing are scheduled to make their full-time IndyCar debut when racing begins later this year. The duo previously competed in 19 races between 2017-19 as a part-time entry.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.