Bourdais' surprise oval victory

Sebastien Bourdais won for the first time on an oval in nine years this past weekend.

Bourdais' surprise oval victory
Start: Josef Newgarden, CFH Racing Chevrolet leads
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet takes the win
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Race winner Sébastien Bourdais, KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

There should be no asterisk for Sebastien Bourdais, the Frenchman who won four consecutive Champ Car World Series championships, all achieved before the series merged with the Indy Racing League to form today’s Verizon IndyCar Series.

After those titles, Bourdais was a wandering driver, driving in Formula 1, sports cars and eventually returning to Indy cars. During that time his reputation suffered a bit, despite strong results at his home race, the 24 Heures du Mans. Schooled in the Newman/Haas Racing scheme of things, Sebastien Bourdais retained loyalty and tried to make the best of each racing opportunity he was given.

That Bourdais now races for, and has strategy called for him by 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser is a boon for both of them and for KVSH Racing.

Bourdais won the ABC Supply 250 at the venerable Milwaukee Mile on Sunday. It was his second dominant victory at The Mile; he led 118 laps on Sunday as opposed to the 117 he led when he won here with Newman/Haas Racing in 2006. In either case he was the dominant driver in the dominant car and the Frenchman took advantage of those opportunities.

Not considered a great oval racer

Long accused of not being much of an oval driver, Bourdais’ success on roundy-rounds is better than one might initially think. I remember when the Champ Car series raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in the last decade; they went to that 1.5-mile banked oval twice and Sebastien Bourdais won - twice.

He’s been able to execute victories, podiums and top 10 results in every type of race car he’s driven - Formula 1/Toro Rosso being the sole exceptions, but as we know, if you don’t have a good vehicle under you, it really doesn’t matter how good a wheelman you are.

Now Sebastien Bourdais owns a total of 34 Indy car wins, 31 of them in Champ Car during his marauding days and three more with the IndyCar Series. These results place him seventh on the all-time wins list, tied with the estimable Al Unser Jr.

He won race No. 1 last year in Toronto during a doubleheader that was similar to Sunday’s Milwaukee contest, in that the race occurred in a single day, with both events on Sunday thanks to a Saturday washout. He won the second Detroit this year under changing conditions that required both team and driver to anticipate best the challenges - and they did.

Sebastien Bourdais has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. He’s still looking for victory in his home race, the 24 Heures du Mans but he’s earned three second-place podium results, an achievement some never get.

In a time when race car drivers are specialists, some refusing races outside their specialties, Sebastien Bourdais continues to challenge himself in every type of racecar and at every kind of event he’s offered. This most recent result shows us, once again, not to underestimate the Frenchman. He’s now a Wisconsin “cheese head”, a laurel I’m sure he’ll cherish far beyond his driving career.

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