Sébastien Bourdias has claimed his first oval race win in almost a decade with a commanding drive to victory in the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile.
The Frenchman and his KVSH Racing team made an excellent strategic call to not pit for fresh tyres during the 250-lap race’s final caution period, figuring that the benefits of clean air and track position would outweigh any advantage that fresh Firestone rubber might give him on the 18-lap dash to the chequered flag.
His poor midfield qualifying position may not have suggested it, but Bourdais had been quick through the preceding two practice sessions at the one-mile oval. His pace was carried into the race, and shone through when it really mattered, lapping the entire field before making his final pit stop.
At that stage, the team elected to bring him in for his final top-up of fuel and tyres out of fear that he might lose out if a full-course caution was called. In a case of perfect timing, he still emerged in the lead and quickly built a five-second cushion before a predictable caution period came when the Honda engine in Justin Wilson’s Andretti Autosports entry let go on Lap 222.
With enough gas in the tank and with twelve other drivers still on the lead lap (having unlapped themselves during Bourdais’ last stop), there was no need to risk coming into the pits again.
The call paid off and he duly claimed his 34th career CART/ChampCar/IndyCar victory, drawing him level with Al Unser in seventh place on the all-time winners’ list. It was the Frenchman’s first oval win since 2006, which occurred at the same circuit in his final year on the ChampCar circuit before his ill-fated move to Formula 1.
Bourdais finished 2.2 seconds clear of Hélio Castroneves, who started dead last after his Team Penske outfit failed to get the Brazilian’s car ready in time for qualifying. The fire-up veteran carved his way up the order thanks to good strategy and a helpful dose of attrition for his rivals, and was inside the top-ten before the race had reached its halfway point.
He was chased over the line by the ever-consistent Graham Rahal – a winner last time out at Fontana – in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. The American is enjoying his best IndyCar season ever, with the result moving him to equal-third in the points’ standings with Castroneves.
Series leader Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth to consolidate his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Pole-sitter Josef Newgarden couldn’t convert his qualifying result into a third win of the season. Despite leading 109 laps in the race – nine short of Bourdais’ tally – the American lost crucial ground when he was delayed exiting his pit bay trying to avoid colliding with another car in the pit lane. He crossed the line in fifth place to earn his fifth top-five finish of the season.
Montoya’s championship lead now sits at 54 points over Scott Dixon, who moved up to second place on the table thanks a disastrous race for Montoya’s Penske teammate Will Power.
The defending champion collided with his Australian compatriot Ryan Briscoe on Lap 130 after the latter spun while the pair was running side-by-side. The two slid into the outside wall – thankfully without injury – but their day was done.
It was a race of high attrition that saw almost one-third of the 24-car field fail to finish. Many of the DNFs were mechanically-induced, and aside from the Briscoe-Power clash, the only other driver to hit the wall was Chip Ganassi rookie Sage Karam, who crashed out with just under 70 laps to run.
That allowed a number of lower-qualifying drivers to work their way up the order. Simon Pagenaud finished in ninth from seventeenth on the grid, while Newgarden’s teammate Ed Carpenter – who was well off the pace to the point of being lapped by his own teammate Newgarden barely 30 laps into the race – managed his first top-ten finish of the season.
The Verizon IndyCar Series continues next Saturday under the lights at the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway.
|2015 IndyCar Series ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 – Final Classification (250 laps)|
|Pos||Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology||250||1:56:46.8264|
|2.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||250||+ 2.2366|
|3.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||250||+ 2.8785|
|4.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||250||+ 10.0028|
|5.||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||250||+ 11.5475|
|6.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||250||+ 12.4000|
|7.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||250||+ 12.9983|
|8.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||250||+ 13.0633|
|9.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||250||+ 13.6952|
|10.||Ed Carpenter||CFH Racing||250||+ 15.4357|
|11.||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||250||+ 16.6016|
|12.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||250||+ 17.4201|
|13.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||250||+ 17.9431|
|14.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||250||+ 18.3184|
|15.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||250||+ 18.9050|
|16.||Tristan Vautier||Dale Coyne Racing||248||+ 2 laps|
|17.||Jack Hawksworth||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||221||+ 29 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Justin Wilson||Andretti Autosport||219||Engine|
|DNF.||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing||183||Accident|
|DNF.||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||156||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Ryan Briscoe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||130||Collision|
|DNF.||Will Power||Team Penske||130||Collision|
|DNF.||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||113||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne Racing||27||Handling|
Image via IndyCar Series