CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing race report

McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS UP TO THIRD FROM 16TH BEFORE HIS DAY ENDED; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL SQUEEZED INTO WALL ON START - McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais started the Champ Car season-opening Vegas Grand Prix from a career low 16th...

McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS UP TO THIRD FROM 16TH BEFORE HIS DAY ENDED; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL SQUEEZED INTO WALL ON START

- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais started the Champ Car season-opening Vegas Grand Prix from a career low 16th place but had charged to third despite two separate punctured tires although brief contact two times after that ended his race and he retired in 13th place after completing 30 of the 68 laps.

Prior to his ultimate downfall, his charge into third despite the setbacks showed the strength of his McDonald's race car and put him in contention for the win in what would have been a three man battle with eventual winner Will Power and Paul Tracy, who had swapped the lead numerous times.

The first start was waived off due to the race cars being too spread out. Champ Car officials threw the green flag the next time by although the field was still spread out. The first caution was thrown shortly after the race went green for teammate Graham Rahal who was pushed into the wall before Turn 1 on the start by an aggressive move by 12th place starter Dan Clarke.

During the caution Bourdais pitted in 14th to top off his fuel and returned to the track in 12th place. A few laps later he got a puncture in his left rear tire and was brought back in on Lap 6, also under caution for the stalled car of rookie Alex Figge. He returned to the track in 11th place and once the race resumed he charged through the field and passed Neel Jani and Justin Wilson. During the next caution to remove Dan Clarke's crashed car, Bourdais entered the pits on Lap 15 to replace his right rear tire that was deflating.

Prior to this, his pass of Wilson had produced some close racing and once Bourdais passed Wilson, the Brit was running close entering corners and this possibility led to Wilson's front wing puncturing Bourdais' tire. He again gained a position during the stop and returned to the race in eighth place.

After the restart he passed Alex Tagliani, Ryan Dalziel, Jani, Robert Doornbos and former teammate Bruno Junqueira to take over third place by Lap 22. He began his pursuit of Power and Tracy and on the following lap he suffered a right front flat and a broken rim by making contact with an undetermined surface. He had to nurse the car around the track a full lap at a greatly reduced speed and barely got out of the pits and back on track on the lead lap. He returned to the race in 11th place, on the lead lap, but on Lap 31 he made contact in Turn 4 which damaged his front wing, left front suspension and tire and he retired from the event in 13th place.

Following are his post race comments:

"We've had the worst weekend I can even remember," said Bourdais. "Just about anything that could go wrong went wrong for the McDonald's team. The first day we had a mechanical issue and the second day I messed up. Today we got bad luck again with two flat tires and still managed to be a contender and got into third. We had one tire that went down after the first restart and the second one later. We got a flat tire and brought it in under yellow twice. The second one could have been caused by someone's wing. I was racing close with Justin so that could possibly be the reason. I'm not sure if we had a third puncture and brushed the wall and the tire went down. I've got no idea what happened in the tunnel because you don't see anything; it's completely pitch black. It was a complete surprise. I felt the brush which is usually no big deal but from there on the race was basically over for us because both right tires were down and I had to make a full lap on them to pit and lost too much time. I don't know why I hit because I didn't think I was close. I guess I just drifted a little to the right and just clipped it. I made a mistake. We went back out and were at the back of the lead lap. Then the lethal mistake with the car was in Turn 4 and made it to Turn 10 until they told me to park it so it wouldn't get damaged further. I stayed with the car until the race was over."

- Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal's Champ Car debut ended before Turn 1 on the first lap of the Vegas Grand Prix. The first start was waived off due to the cars being too spread out. Champ Car officials threw the green flag the next time by although the field was still spread out. Rahal was squeezed into the right wall before Turn 1 by an overly optimistic move by Dan Clarke who ultimately finished 15th due to contact after 13 laps.

Following are Rahal's comments:

"The start was bad; we weren't packed up," said Rahal who started 10th. " Dan (Clarke) came smoking by me and had to be in sixth gear, flat out already. He got in so hot. I dodged him but when you're out that far there isn't anything you can do. He figured he would either hit Neel Jani or shoot across the track and when he shot across the track he squeezed me into the dirt and at that point its impossible to steer. It's been tough all weekend for the Medi | Zone team. We have to put this behind us and move on to Long Beach. Hopefully we'll qualify up higher where the guys that know what they are doing are."

- First Since 2003 Season Finale: It was the first time in 42 events that neither team driver finished in the top-10. The last time it occurred was in the 2003 season finale in Australia.

- Up Next: The Champ Car World Series will reconvene next weekend for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. McDonald's driver Bourdais won the past two events there.

-credit: nhlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Alex Figge , Neel Jani , Will Power , Dan Clarke