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

McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED 100TH WIN FOR TEAM AT THE MAZDA GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL FINISHED NINTH - McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais brought Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing their 100th victory after winning...


- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais brought Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing their 100th victory after winning the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland with a 13.5-second margin over second place Justin Wilson. Mario Andretti's first victory for the team, named Newman/Haas Racing for the first 24 years, was also won by a sizable margin when he drove to a 16-second victory at Road America in 1983 in the team's sixth event. Today Bourdais earned his 26th win for the team and increased his lead in the point standings from a slim, pre-race amount of three to 11 (105-94) over Will Power after Round 4 of 16. Bourdais started the event third behind Justin Wilson and Robert Doornbos, but as the field made the first standing start in series history, Will Power jumped from his seventh place start and into third so Bourdais ran fourth for the first 20 laps. During that time he repeatedly closed on Power but multiple attempts to pass had to be aborted when Power closed the door on him. The field stacked up behind second place Doornbos while race leader Wilson built a gap over second of 18-seconds. By the time Wilson made his first stop, Bourdais was in fifth after having been passed by Alex Tagliani who employed his Push to Pass feature on Lap 21. Bourdais moved briefly into the lead on Lap 29 immediately before he pitted and because he was able to stretch his fuel two laps longer than Wilson and took on slightly less fuel he returned to the track in second place. He held a deficit of 17 seconds to Wilson but consistently turned quicker laps and cut 8/10ths of a second off each lap on average while continuing to better his own fastest lap of the race and closed to four seconds by Lap 51 before his next stop on Lap 52. He pitted two laps before Wilson so on the next stint he needed to maintain a four second lead in order to stay ahead after the final stop. This proved not to be a problem after the round of stops were complete and he regained the lead on Lap 57 with a 1.6-second lead over Wilson. Despite navigating through traffic he still managed to increase his lead lap by lap and had built the prerequisite lead of 4.5 seconds by Lap 64. Before his final stop on Lap 79 he had increased that to 14 seconds over second place Wilson. He returned to the track while Wilson ran two laps longer and cut into the lead but Bourdais was 6.5 seconds ahead on Lap 82. By Lap 94 he had increased his lead to 16.4 seconds but began to settle into a conservative pace to conserve his fuel. When the checkered flag came out after 1 hour and 45 minutes he held a 13.5-second margin over Wilson. He earned 31 points for the victory and one for setting the fastest race lap to increase his lead in the standings to 105-94 over Will Power who finished fourth.

Following are his post race comments:

"I don't think I made history; I think I just participated in it for my team," said Bourdais. "It's obviously a fantastic organization with three great team owners. You know, I couldn't be any happier for the whole team, the owners and McDonald's. Well, I think we just didn't seem to be able to put it together either on Friday or Saturday. We just seemed pretty clear after a while today, the McDonald's car was superior and we were just able to maintain the advantage. It's a pretty sweet win -- No. 100 for the team. I'm just very, very honored to be a part of this.

"I would seem to have enough of an advantage to hold and sustain and extend our lead. It was really good. But the first stint was a typical game of fuel saving. Nobody from the outside could even believe we were saving so much fuel. It was made very hard by Alex because he wasn't playing the game. He just beat himself because he passed us, yeah, great, but there were another two cars in front of him that he didn't seem to be able to attack. After that, he was the first one in the pits. It was really frustrating because at some point I saw we were not going to go further due to that. At some point I had to use 'push to pass', braking, saving fuel, do this, do that. It was getting a little tricky. Save fuel but don't get passed. Get passed, but still don't save as much fuel as you want. It was a little tough. I was very happy to see we actually did go further than everyone else, which got us in front of Robert, Will and Alex. From there, we just short-filled the car, put our reds on, started clicking some very fast laps. It was pretty even for the first five laps of the stint with Justin, but his tires went off quicker than ours. We were just catching him after that, 8/10ths of a second a lap. That was pretty impressive. Then when I got to the second pit stop, I looked at Craig, and I was like, Boy, I can smell blood here coming. We did catch him and pass him. I knew I had a pretty small window to get it done because he was coming out of the pits and struggling a little bit. I was already on hot tires since I pitted earlier with the short fill on the first stop. We just got it done. From there it was just a pull-away game because I had to pull about four or five seconds' advantage on him to be able to sustain the lead. We did just that. We just seemed pretty clear after a while, the McDonald's car was superior and we were just able to maintain the advantage.

"I think I'll probably never be able to top Denver '04 because that was very special but yeah, I think it's definitely right up there. We put on something fairly similar last year, except we were coming from too far behind. We ran Justin down just the same way. Just came short of passing him. There was another guy in front. It's definitely the way I love to race, just be pushing the whole time. At some point in the car, you can smell it, it's coming. It's right there. You're working at it really hard. You know if you keep on pushing and trying, it's going to get there. It's very satisfying, very motivating thing for our championship expectation. It's also very good. We've shown now we cannot only do it on street courses, but we can surely do it on road courses. I think it's very, very good for our expectations, our effort in the championship. It feels even sweeter since the whole thing changed with the new car. Everybody was pointing fingers saying Newman/Haas had a big advantage. This kind of shut all the rumors down saying we had the best equipment since everyone has the same now. We've got the best team. We've got the best combination. It's not only driver, but for sure team and mechanics and the whole nine yards. That's how you win. You don't win with a solo effort; you win with a great group of people."

- Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal finished ninth in the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland after starting eighth in what was a challenging weekend. The team struggled on Friday and was unable to better their provisional qualifying time due to rain on Saturday although the did take small satisfaction with running second in the session and almost guaranteeing a front row start. Rahal and the rest of his peers made history with the first standing start in series and Rahal dropped from eighth to 10th but regained his position by Lap 5. Although he had a faster race car than seventh place "Speedy Dan" Clarke he was unable t o pass him before his first pit stop on Lap 29. He returned to the race in eighth place and cut the chicane on cold tires. He reported to the team shortly thereafter that he briefly drove off course but that the car was fine. For the next stint he was still within 0.5-seconds of seventh place Clarke but unable to pass him so he concentrated on saving fuel to extend his stint and possibly pass him in the pits. His next stop came on Lap 51 and he remained immediately behind Clarke. His attempt to pass the slower car of Clarke was met with a bold move by the Englishman who ran him off the track on Lap 62 which brought a warning from Champ Car officials. On Lap 70 Rahal again closed on Clarke but lost the aerodynamic edge due to running so close and drove off course although he suffered no damage other than losing a position to Simon Pagenaud. He made his final stop on Lap 78 and took the checkered flag in ninth place after 103 laps. He earned 13 points for his finishing position and dropped from his seventh place rank to eight with a total of 59 points after round 4 of 16.

Following are his post race comments:

"The start was difficult for me; I had a bad start anyway," said Rahal. "I' ll have to look at a replay to see how exciting it was but from my side of things it wasn't that great. Apart from that the race was going well but once we caught up to 'stupid Dan,' which is what I'm going to call him from now on, he just drove me off the road and that was that. Then we tried to take a different approach in order to make up some positions then I messed up behind Will Power so it was just a tough day and I'm happy it's over. I think we'll have a good shot again at Cleveland but I said that this week too. We just need to make sure we start up front where we belong. We missed it this weekend but toward the end we started to get it but unfortunately it was a too much, too late. We'll get better. Congratulations to Sebastien on taking the team's 100th victory. And my thanks to the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Medi I Zone crew who gave me faultless stops and a good car. I just wasn't able to make the most of it today, so it was a bit disappointing. We turned the third fastest lap which shows that we had the pace, but just couldn't use it to our advantage."

- Up Next.. The Champ Car World Series will take next weekend off before reconvening in Cleveland for Round 5 of 16 at the Burke Lakefront Airport course. Bourdais will compete in his home race -- the 24 Hours of Le Mans next weekend while Rahal will travel from Portland to San Jose for a PR appearance on Monday as well as one in Cleveland on Wednesday.

-credit: nhlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Alex Tagliani , Graham Rahal , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud