BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – As Sebastien Bourdais debriefed with his engineers in the pits following Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First, Tony Kanaan greeted him with a hug.
“I like racing with you, man,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver told Bourdais as the two embraced and shook hands. “You’re a championship racer.”
Indeed, he is. Three races into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Bourdais remains atop the championship standings after a particularly stout eighth-place finish in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.
While enthused by the team’s impressive start to the season, Bourdais admitted that he’s not considering a celebration just yet.
“I’m not thinking championship,” Bourdais said. “It’s the Cinderella story and that’s very good, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
In the middle of a debrief with engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson in which Bourdais was describing several instances when he nearly lost control of his car, Kanaan approached and offered his congratulations.
The two had battled late in the race for seventh place. At one point, Bourdais took the position. But just when Bourdais thought his mirrors were clear, Kanaan roared back and regained the spot. Kanaan held on to finish seventh, with Bourdais not far behind.
Eighth place was enough to hang on to first in points, a fact Bourdais struggles to grasp. If someone would’ve told him during the offseason that this was possible, “I would’ve called you delusional,” he said.
The offseason is when Bourdais moved from KVSH Racing, which later folded, to Coyne’s team. He brought Boisson, his engineer at KVSH, and added Hampson, who engineered Bourdais’ four consecutive Champ Car championships (2004-2007) with Newman/Haas Racing.
Together, the trio is off to an impressive start, winning the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, and finishing second in the second race at Long Beach, California. Sunday’s hard-working drive kept him in the lead, just six points ahead of Scott Dixon, who finished second Sunday, and seven points ahead of Josef Newgarden, who won the Barber race.
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes this weekend with the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on Saturday at Phoenix Raceway (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). While short ovals aren’t necessarily Bourdais’ forte, he and DCR will keep fighting.
“We’ll just keep dialing the old dials, trying to make the car as good as we can and score the best results we can, week in and week out, and see where we end up,” Bourdais said. “There’s no such expectation for us as to be fighting for the championship. To be in the position we’re in right now, I’m perfectly happy with that.”
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