Race Report: Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix
INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 14) – The Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix is part of an historic weekend as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts the NTT INDYCAR Series and the NASCAR Cup Series on the IMS road course for the first time.
Driving the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet, Sébastien Bourdais started 15th. His team opted for the harder compound primary Firestone tires while those behind him started on the softer and faster alternate red-rimmed tires.
“A bit of a tough situation for us starting fifteenth with a bunch of cars, four or five behind us, starting on reds (tires), so that was a bit of a kicker for us and then sure enough at the start of the race, we just lost all those positions,” said Bourdais. “With track position being so key, it just set us back and it was tough to recover.”
The strategy of starting on those primary tires was ultimately to be able to retire them for the remainder of the race and stick to the alternates, which worked out in favor of the ROKiT team as Bourdais’s pace improved after his first scheduled pit stop on Lap 12. Committing to the softer compound tires meant he had to manage his tires throughout the remainder of the race.
“Still feel like we did a halfway decent job,” Bourdais said. “We used up the left rear like last time but a little less, and our pace seemed to be better overall. Overall, had to nurse those Firestone tires a little too much for me to be able to extract the real speed out of the car, because if I did that for five laps, then we were kind of dead for the rest of the stint. And then we kind of worked our way back since we did black-red-red-red, and our pace was pretty decent.”
However, when the first full course yellow was brought out by championship leader Alex Palou for mechanical issues on Lap 68 of the 85-lapper, Bourdais also found himself in trouble when the field restarted the race with 12 laps to. The Frenchman found himself in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Ryan Hunter-Reay for 15th when they tangled in turns 12 and 13, ultimately sending both cars through the grass. Although both continued, Bourdais dropped down to 22nd and Hunter-Reay, 23rd.
“Unfortunately, at the first restart – I haven’t seen videos – but Ryan (Hunter-Reay) defended going into (turn) 12, went to the inside, I ran around the outside and then he tried to go around my outside in 13 and I don’t know,” Bourdais explained. “I mean it’s obviously a very, very tight corner, I turned as much as I could and the right front (tire) was dirty for sure from that yellow flag, so it washed out a bit, but I was backing up the corner to make sure I was giving him room. I don’t know, having not seen the replay, it’s tough to say, but I feel like he had a lot of track on his right side and he just turned in and we made contact side-by-side. It knocked the wheel out of my hands and the wheels interlocked and then it threw us both out in the grass, and deep enough since the cars just kind of tangled and the wheels kind of went left-right-left-right. I couldn’t get my hands back on the wheel and turn and get it out of the grass, so it was a long way deep in the grass and we lost like six, seven positions, which was a real shame because it’s so difficult to make back.”
Nonetheless, Bourdais fought his way back and caught a break when there was another caution on lap 77 for Rinus Veekay, who spun after being punted by Scott McLaughin. Bourdais gained a couple spots because McLaughlin was penalized for avoidable contact. Bourdais finished 15th.
Bourdais debriefs with his engineers after the race.
“There was another yellow where we gained a couple of positions and passed a few cars, but it just feels like a bit of a lost opportunity again to maybe finish in the top-10 or really close to it” Bourdais lamented. “So a little frustrating but not a bad day overall. I feel like the guys did a really good job today in the pits and felt that we were a little racier than we had been here in the past, but yeah, fifteenth.”
Dalton Kellett didn’t fare as well in the race and despite severe tire degradation being the reason, the cause of that degradation remains a mystery. The No 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet team went into the race with an air of confidence after a solid morning warmup session where Kellett was 14th quickest of the 28 cars.
“Definitely a tough day for the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet,” said Kellett. “We currently don’t have any answers as to what was really going on, but we were really struggling with the rears throughout the race. We didn’t make any setup changes between warmup and the race so it’s kind of baffling what happened. When we came in on the last three stints, the tires were down to the cords and it was just trying to hang on for dear life basically during the run,” revealed Kellett. “Don’t really have any answers. Definitely a frustrating day but we’ll have to see if there’s anything that we learn on the set down and go from there. That’s all we can do.”
Kellett, who started the race on primary compound Firestones made his first scheduled stop of the race on Lap 15, and switched to the softer, faster alternates which seemed to be when the trouble with tire wear began. Even after switching back to primaries on Lap 35 and remaining on the harder tires for the rest of the race, the degradation remained an issue. The No. 4 K-Line Insulators team asked him to pit to see if there were any issues with the car itself that may have been causing extra pressure to the tire, but they couldn’t see anything in the quick once-over. Kellett finished 26th.
Kellett debriefs with race strategist Scott Harner after the race.
“We had a good test at Gateway so definitely looking forward to that next weekend," said Kellett, adding, "but it’s perplexing coming from a strong weekend in terms of pace from Nashville to here and just kind of really struggling. During warmup we thought we were looking alright, so it’s just a question mark right now.”
Will Power went on to claim victory for the second time this season and the 40th of his career, pushing him past Al Unser, Sr. for fifth on the all-time wins list. Romain Grosjean, Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward rounded out the top five.
The NTT INDYCAR Series races next weekend in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, a one-day show at World Wide Technology Raceway in St. Louis. The final oval event of the season will air on NBSCN beginning at 8:00 PM ET.
A.J. Foyt returned to action this weekend for the first time since the Indy 500.