CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing race report

McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED SECOND STRAIGHT WIN IN THE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON AND CLAIMED THE SERIES POINTS LEAD; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL BROUGHT TEAM FIRST 1-2 FINISH SINCE 2005 - McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais earned his...

McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED SECOND STRAIGHT WIN IN THE GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON AND CLAIMED THE SERIES POINTS LEAD; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL BROUGHT TEAM FIRST 1-2 FINISH SINCE 2005

- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais earned his second consecutive win in the Grand Prix of Houston today and took over the lead in the Champ Car point standings for the first time this season with 73 points to Will Power's 70. He started the 1 hour 45 minute race in second place but the first lap of the race was run under caution because the field wasn't aligned properly. Once the race went green on the second lap, Bourdais was alongside pole sitter Will Power going into the first curve of the chicane but would have made contact with the Australian had he attempted to drive around the next curb as intended. Instead, he cut across the chicane to avoid contact and the move put him in the lead. Champ Car officials ordered him to give up the position but by that time Justin Wilson had passed Power for second therefore Bourdais had to let Wilson by. He ran in second place only one half of a second behind Wilson until Lap 14 when he passed him going into the chicane. He steadily increased his lead each lap over second place and was over six seconds ahead when he set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 27 before a caution flag flew on Laps 28-32 for debris. In addition to debris on the track, Bourdais had been carrying debris in the form of part of a banner on his front left wing for a few laps and that was removed on his first pit stop when the entire field came in on Lap 29.

He returned to the track and reclaimed the lead. After the race was restarted he reported to the crew that the car did not feel right. It was later decided that there was a potential problem with the right rear shock but fortunately that never deterred him. He ran approx. one second ahead of second place Oriol Servia who was filling in for the injured Paul Tracy. By Lap 42 he increased the lead over second to 1.6-seconds and held it until a caution for the stalled car of Roberto Moreno, who was filling in for rookie Alex Figge who suffered back pain from his accident in Long Beach last weekend. The race restarted and Bourdais maintained over a one second lead over Servia and bettered his fastest lap on Lap 67 before his final pit stop on Lap 68. Luckily Bourdais entered the pits immediately before a caution flag closed the pits for two separate incidents involving five cars. He returned to the track behind rookie Tristan Gommendy who had made his previous pit stop on Lap 48, 20 laps before Bourdais made his second one. By the time the race resumed, Bourdais was informed that Gommendy could possibly complete the race without another fuel stop if the caution flag came out again. He closed to 0.4-seconds of Gommendy multiple times in the ensuing laps but didn't attempt a pass. On Lap 86 of what would be 93 Gommendy immediately slowed on course and Bourdais grazed his car with his front wing. After his pulse returned to normal he settled in to the lead and turned the fastest race lap the final two laps of the event and led his teammate Graham Rahal to the checkered flag for the team's first one-two finish since Bourdais and Oriol Servia accomplished the feat in Las Vegas in the fall of 2005. He earned 31 points for the win and one for setting the fastest race lap. Previous points leader Will Power finished 11th and Bourdais was able to take over the lead with a total of 73 points to Power's 70 after Round 3 of 16.

Following are his post race comments:
"It's just been a weird weekend overall," said Bourdais. "You know, it feels really good to be back at the top here. After a great weekend at Long Beach, you know, and now having the first 1-2 with Graham, it has been a long time for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. It feels really good because the boys worked so hard last night. Like Graham was saying, it's been a long winter, they really worked their tails off. It's paying off. It's all to their credit. I couldn't be any happier. It was a pretty tough beginning of the race. And then Justin made it a bit easier for us. He got around Will. So I just had to give up that position. And then after that, we were saving fuel, saving fuel, saving fuel. And I kind of had the feeling that Justin might have been struggling a little bit to make the fuel mileage, so I just kept the pressure. And I think at some point he really, really tried to make the target, and he just, you know, couldn't keep the pace. I got a good jump out of turn 10, and got around. After that, it was a straighter shot but a pretty eventful race. I have to say it wasn't easy. We got I think quite a few things to look at the car because towards the end, it wasn't the same car as the beginning. So I'm just glad it turned out all right. You know, I'm very happy for all the McDonald's crew."

- Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal became the youngest Champ Car driver to earn a top-three podium finish when he finished second after starting sixth in the Grand Prix of Houston. While missing his Senior Prom weekend, Rahal completed the first one-two finish for the team since Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia accomplished the feat in Las Vegas in the fall of 2005. In warm, humid conditions, the race started under caution due to the field not being aligned properly and when the green flag flew on the second lap Rahal held sixth place. On Lap 11, he trailed Neel Jani and began to close on him and passed him for position on Lap 17. After that, he attempted to close on fourth place Oriol Servia, who was filling in for the injured Paul Tracy but was unable to close much due to attempting to conserve fuel. The caution flag flew on Laps 28-32 for debris and the entire field made their first pit stop of the race on Lap 29.

Due to a quick stop by the Medi | Zone crew Rahal gained two positions from Justin Wilson and Will Power and returned to the track in third place. He trailed race leader Bourdais and Servia for the ensuing laps and averaged a one second deficit to Servia until his next stop on Lap 67. Two laps later, a caution flag closed the pits for two separate incidents involving five cars from Laps 69-74. After most of the drivers made their stops he ran in fourth place as the top two drivers, Tristan Gommendy and Ryan Dalziel did not stop with the rest of the field. Before the caution was over Dalziel pitted and Rahal moved into third place. Once the race resumed he held his position and built a small lead over fourth place Robert Doornbos. Temporary race leader Gommendy, who had made his previous pit stop on Lap 48, ran out of fuel on track on Lap 86 of what would be 93 and Rahal moved into second which he held until the checkered flag and became the youngest driver to finish on the podium in the series. He earned 25 points for his second place finish for a total of 46 to move him from a 14th place rank into seventh, only 27 behind leader Bourdais, 73.

Following are his post race comments:
"All around it was a good weekend for the entire Medi | Zone team," said Rahal. "Sebastien was obviously the man to beat from the first session. It was pretty obvious that we had good cars this weekend. For me, obviously I was just learning and gaining more experience from him. So luckily in the race we put it together. We knew after qualifying yesterday, it was a little disappointing being sixth because in prequalifying (practice) we were on old tires and we were really fast. So we expected to be the same. But we had some issues so we basically couldn't put a lap together and all night, you know, the team worked really hard. We sorted out our problems, came out here today, and right away the car felt really good in the race. I was able to save a lot of fuel, keep pace with Oriol and those guys. At the end of the day, he had to pit a lap earlier than me and that was that because I had a good in-lap and good out-lap. Unfortunately, it went yellow. But still we got ahead of him and the team did a great job on pit stops. I have to really thank them."

- Up Next… The Champ Car World Series will take the next six weeks off before Round 4 of 16 at Portland International Raceway. The team has two tests planned in the interim.

-credit: nhlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Justin Wilson , Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Alex Figge , Neel Jani , Tristan Gommendy , Will Power