CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Newman/Haas Racing race report

Bourdais Won in Denver Despite Dropping to Back on Lap 1; Junqueira led 39 Laps and Finished Third - McDonald's Driver Sebastien Bourdais recovered from an opening lap incident that dropped him to last place to win the 90-lap Centrix Financial...

Bourdais Won in Denver Despite Dropping to Back on Lap 1; Junqueira led 39 Laps and Finished Third

- McDonald's Driver Sebastien Bourdais recovered from an opening lap incident that dropped him to last place to win the 90-lap Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver by a 7.5-second margin over Paul Tracy after he led the final 11 laps. (He was officially scored in 15th place due to the location of the timing sensor and the Turn 4 pit entrance, where a few cars entered when the caution flag came out.) His eighth Champ Car win and fifth this season in nine races enabled him to increase his pre-race lead in the championship from 47 to 56 over teammate Bruno Junqueira who finished third. He earned the team their third pole and second win in Denver as well as their 19th victory in the past 48 races. It was also his seventh podium finish of the season in nine races.

Prior to the race he remarked that he hoped each event that each time he returned to an event for the second time it would be easier. Friday and Saturday followed suit as be was fastest in qualifying each day and earned both championship points available but Sunday's 90-lap race was an uphill climb. At the start of the 90-lap event the field took the green flag. Second place starter and teammate Bruno Junqueira moved to the inside of Bourdais and the two touched which caused Bourdais to spin. Behind them three other drivers made contact or spun and the first of two full course cautions came out.

Bourdais rejoined the back of the field but was scored in 15th place due to cars entering the pits in Turn 4 on this track. He reported to the team that his car suffered no damage and he was able to continue without coming into the pits to check for damage. He was in 13th place when the race restarted on Lap 5 and by the end of the seventh lap he passed two cars. By the Lap 9 he passed Jimmy Vasser, Mario Haberfeld and Justin Wilson for eighth place and closed on the next pack of cars but was unable to pass due to close proximity of each car to the other. He made his next pass on Lap 19 when he overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay for seventh place and began to close on A. J. Allmendinger.

Previous third place runner Patrick Carpentier ran into trouble and fell back a few positions before others attempted to pass him as well. By Lap 23 Bourdais got by Carpentier and into sixth place before he continued to pressure Allmendinger and finally passed him on after Lap 32 before he made his first pit stop on Lap 40. Beginning with this event, the series implemented a new pit stop rule that mandates one stop to take place between leader lap 51 and leader lap 77. He returned to the track ahead of Oriol Servia in fourth place. By Lap 45 he was 11 seconds behind teammate Junqueira and began setting consecutive laps that were the fastest in the race so far and closed the gap before he successfully passed him on Lap 55 for third place and reported to his engineer Craig Hampson "We can win this thing Craig" over the radio. He again bettered his fastest lap time on Laps 58 and 64.

Prior to his final pit stop on Lap 68, he had closed the gap on second place Mario Dominguez to three seconds before the lapped car of Patrick Carpentier came on track from the pits with a heavy fuel load and cold tires, immediately behind his teammate and race leader Paul Tracy and ahead of Dominguez and Bourdais. Tracy appeared to run away from the duo before Bourdais made his final pit stop on Lap 68 and returned to the track in fourth place behind the top three who had yet to make their final stop. Due to pitting and his growing gap to the leader before he made his final stop, he was now 31 second back but had the fastest car on track and was working on closing the amount so that he could hopefully move up once they made their final stops. That scenario evaporated when a full course caution period came out on Lap 74 of 90 to remove the car of Ryan Hunter-Reay who spun and stalled in Turn 9.

After those ahead of Bourdais made their final stops, he was in third place behind Tracy and Mario Dominguez and ahead of Junqueira who had moved into third when Bourdais pitted earlier. The race was restarted on Lap 79 of 90 and Bourdais moved inside Dominguez in Turn 1 and the two made slight contact before Bourdais continued and Dominguez slid wide in the turn. He then began a charge on leader Tracy and successfully passed him with a brilliant move in Turn 9 while both were using their push to pass buttons. After that, he reported that he thought something might be wrong with his left rear tire but the team told him the telemetry didn't show a change. With five laps to go he held a four second lead on Tracy and set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 89 of 90 before he won the 90-lap race by a 7.4-second margin. On the cool down lap he radioed to the team that something in the car broke after he crossed the Start/Finish line. He collected 31 points for the win, one point for leading the race and one point for setting the fastest race lap for a season total of 248.

Following are his post race comments:

"I think it is the most beautiful one (win) for sure," said Bourdais. "To start on the pole and have a difficult start and then work your way back to first place, I think it's pretty amazing. It is a great feeling, I'm very proud of the McDonald's team. We didn't give up. I had to pass guys on the track and earn my way back to the top, and we were able to do that in the McDonald's car. We had an awesome car all weekend out of the truck. When I was running in 4th, I realized I could possibly win this, but it was not going to be very easy.

This is the best street race in a long time and it was a terrific weekend. I am very, very happy. The push to pass, obviously helped me big-time and I think, as Paul said, that was probably the best street race we have seen in quite a long time now. (On his pass of Mario Dominguez:) I think now the rules are pretty clear, you are not supposed to change your line and he was kind of staying in the middle of the racetrack. I used the push to pass; he used it two seconds later, so I had kind of a jump. I was alongside him. He squeezed me in the braking zone and made the turn when I was still there. I tried the curb, but there was really nothing I could do and we had a contact. I don't know what happened to him. We have been very, very lucky to stay on the racetrack. I thought it was pretty much over because the steering wheel was turned, the front suspension was bent and the steering wheel was not straight anymore.

But well, the next two laps were difficult and then I think Paul must have made a small mistake, probably went off-line just very slightly and put some marbles on the tires. From then he was struggling so bad and I thought I wouldn't have a hard time to pass him, but it was surviving basically and I took the shot and passed him and from there, nobody could really stop us. I don't know what happened at the end because I think we had a suspension failure or flow failure, whatever, but the thing was bottoming very bad and was pulling to the right, so right before the last turn of the last lap so I think I am pretty happy that we didn't have 107 laps or something like that, because probably we would not have make it. (On his pass on Paul Tracy:) I think we both used the push to pass. I have to thank Paul, he has been very fair. He didn't move at all. He gave me plenty of room to try my move and I braked later and it's been very, very fair with Paul."

- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira took the lead at the start of the 90-lap Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver and held it for the first 39 laps but was unable to earn his third consecutive win here and ultimately finished third. At the start of the event he went into the first turn alongside pole sitter and teammate Sebastien Bourdais and the two made contact which resulted in Bourdais spinning while Junqueira continued. He built a 1.5-second lead over second place Paul Tracy before he came upon backmarkers and Tracy was able to close on him before they both made their first pit stops on Lap 40. Beginning with this event, the series implemented a new pit stop rule that mandated one stop to take place between leader lap 51 and leader lap 77. Tracy's team performed a quick stop and he returned to the track 3.4 seconds ahead of Junqueira at the end of the following lap.

It was thought the Tracy's team might have short filled his car in order to take the lead. A few laps later he drove wide into a corner and Mario Dominguez was able to pass him on Lap 43. He held third place until Lap 54 when Bourdais, who had charged back through the field, passed him. He reported to his crew that his brakes were not working normally, most likely due to overheating because of the thinner air in the higher altitude. He moved back into third place when Bourdais made his final stop on Lap 68 and held the position until he made his final stop during the second full course caution of the race from Laps 74-78 to remove the car of Ryan Hunter-Reay who had spun and stalled his car. He returned to the track in fourth place behind leader Tracy, Dominguez and Bourdais.

When the race was restarted, Bourdais and Dominguez made contact as Bourdais passed him and he slid wide into the corner which enabled Junqueira to pass for third place. He then had to hold off Dominguez who steadily ran around 0.5-seconds behind him before he took the checkered flag in third place. It was the 21st podium finish of his career and the fifth of the season. He has now led 215 laps of the 296 run in Denver. He collected 25 points for his finish and one for leading the race for a total of 192. Leader Bourdais has 248 while third place Tracy has 180.

Following are his post race comments:

"It was an ok race," said Junqueira. "I did not have good balance with the PacifiCare car. I took the lead at the start and I tried to save fuel early on and we had good mileage. I think I made a very good start and went right to Turn 1. I came outside of Sebastien, gave him room. He tried to out brake me and I braked and was clean. I play hard, but clean, and I said we're both lucky that we kept in the race. I built a lead on Paul Tracy but I ran into traffic two laps before my first pit stop and Paul was able to close in on me heading in to the first stop. He had a good pit stop and passed me in the pits.

After that, the car wasn't as good, I had a lot of traffic and I lost the brakes. I just passed a guy and went wide and Dominguez, who was not even close before, passed me because I made a mistake. I tried just to keep the car on the track, it was really difficult. Jourdain had a flat tire and I had to pass him outside on Turn 1 and 2 and got marbles on my tires then Sebastien came to pass me and there was nothing I could do. After that I just tried to keep fourth place. Then there was the yellow and Sebastien and Mario had contact on the restart and I went to third.

I tried to make some ground up to Tracy, but my car wasn't that good. I couldn't attack the corner. I was just not feeling comfortable (with the car) to drive. I wanted to make sure that I would be able to keep the car on the track. Then it's a different situation when you cannot attack the corners; especially when I tried to pass someone like Paul Tracy at the end of the race. I settled for third and I think it is an okay result because I didn't have the car to win today. We are going to work very hard for Montreal so we can get a good car again and get a win. I am trying to win from the first race of the year. Unfortunately I think there were maybe three races that I was the strongest guy out there and for some reason I didn't win. Today I wasn't the strongest guy out there, I was maybe second or third, and I finished third. I finished pretty much where I deserve to finish. Maybe Montreal is going to be another story. I hope I can be strong there and get a first win of the season."

Paul Tracy on Sebastien's Season So Far..."Everything he touches turns into a Golden Arch, so it's just kind of the way it is. I had some of that last year and you know, a lot of times I was very lucky when reds came out during qualifying and I always seemed to get my lap right before the red came out. It's just not happening that way this year. It's his turn right now. We just have to keep focused and hopefully it will come our way."

- Up Next...After a one-day test at the 1.5-mile oval at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Wednesday the series will head north of the border for the Molson Indy Montreal on August 27-29.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais