Late pit gamble pays off for Bourdais at Pocono

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A brilliant strategy call on Sebastien Bourdais’ final pit stop resulted in a stout fifth-place finish in Monday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. It marked the KVSH Racing driver’s best Indy car finish on a superspeedway oval (1.5 miles or longer) since he won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2005.

“It was definitely our strongest showing on a superspeedway,” the 37-year-old Bourdais said. “We learned something this weekend, something we have been missing. The crew did a really good job and the Hydroxycut Chevy machine was really strong.”

Bourdais started 18th in the rescheduled race following Sunday’s rainout and took advantage of an early yellow flag to top off fuel in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet. By virtue of being out of sequence with most of the rest of the 22-car field, he led Laps 36 and 37 of the 200-lap race before stopping again for Sunoco E85R ethanol, Firestone tires and car adjustments.

Bourdais then steadily marched his way through the field, re-entering the top 10 on lap 90 and not slipping below 12th place the rest of the way. The four-time Indy car champion was running seventh when the race’s fourth and final caution flew on Lap 176 for debris. All 11 cars on the lead lap made their final pit stops a lap later.

The KVSH Racing team and driver elected to roll the dice and take fuel only on the stop, even though Bourdais had already put 20 laps (50 miles) on his tires. The quicker stop vaulted Bourdais five positions to second as the field lined up for the last restart.

As the green flag flew, Bourdais fell back because erroneous computer information told the team he should have been in third place. He was passed by Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin, dropping to fifth. The Frenchman managed to reel in Kanaan for fourth place on Lap 187 but was passed seven laps later by the charging Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Bourdais held on for fifth, despite putting 43 laps (107.5 miles) on his final set of tires. It was his best finish of any kind since winning the opener of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit in June. Bourdais said changes his crew made during early pit stops made all the difference.

“We took some penalties with long pit stops to set the car up early on, but even though we were marginal on front grip, we were running a pretty solid race,” said Bourdais. “We passed Dixie (Scott Dixon), passed Kanaan, passed some Penskes. Not the top one (race winner Will Power), but when you do that, things are going pretty good.

“So I am really happy with the result.”

Bourdais and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series field are in action again this weekend to complete the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race was suspended June 12 by rain after 71 of the scheduled 248 laps had been run on the 1.455-mile oval. NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network have live coverage of the race completion at 9 p.m. ET Saturday.

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