Race fan Dan Bordenkecher nailed the point Sunday night on Twitter. Sebastien Bourdais, he wrote, is INDYCAR’s “most underloved 4x champ.”
Put open-wheel politics aside while digesting that statement. With each passing race, Bourdais seems to prove he belongs in the discussion as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
As race wins go, Bourdais’ 35 are tied with Bobby Unser for sixth place in Indy car history, ranking ahead of Al Unser Jr., Dario Franchitti and Rick Mears, among others. Among drivers active in the Verizon IndyCar Series, only Scott Dixon (40) has more than Bourdais.
Of course, Bourdais’ four series championships and 31 of his race wins came in an era when Indy car’s talent was divided into two groups, the Champ Car World Series and the Verizon IndyCar Series (then called the Indy Racing League). For better or worse, Bourdais wasn’t fighting Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing for supremacy, but that shouldn’t shortchange his accomplishment, and here’s why:
Bourdais keeps proving himself, over and over, and he did so again Sunday as a member of the class-winning Ford GT in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Frenchman drove with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in capturing the GT LM title for Chip Ganassi Racing’s sports car entity, giving Bourdais his second such win in this country’s most prestigious twice-round-the-clock event. The threesome also won their class in last summer’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the gold standard of endurance racing.
Many forget that Bourdais won a race in the old International Race of Champions stock car event, holding off Mark Martin at Texas Motor Speedway in 2005. Bourdais scored six points with the small Toro Rosso team in Formula One and has continued to find victory lane regardless of the sports car banner (Grand-Am, ALMS or now IMSA WeatherTech).
Try naming the four drivers to have won at least one Verizon IndyCar Series race each of the past three seasons. Yes on Dixon, yes on Will Power. Even Juan Pablo Montoya checks that box. But be honest: Who had Bourdais as the other member of this group? Remember, one of Bourdais’ four wins came at Milwaukee, one of the toughest ovals in the business, and he led 47 percent of the laps.
Which brings the narrative back to Bordenkecher’s point. Five drivers in history have garnered four or more Indy car season championships, with A.J. Foyt tops at seven. Mario Andretti won four and he certainly has received his due. Dario Franchitti’s resume gets more appreciated with each passing year, and Dixon’s chance to become third on Indy car’s race win list is certain to earn him elite status.
Bourdais? History will judge his credits, but what he continues to accomplish is deserving of respect now.