Race Report: REV Group Grand Prix at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 20, 2021)—“When it rains, it pours,” lamented Team President Larry Foyt amidst a light rain following the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America Sunday afternoon.
Although the saying comes from an early 1900s advertising slogan for Morton table salt (referring to the fact that humidity does not affect its salt's "pourability"), it has come to mean something entirely different, and it certainly rang true for AJ Foyt Racing this weekend.
The troubles began in Saturday’s final practice for Dalton Kellett who had a wiring issue cause him to lose most of the session. The problem was diagnosed and corrected in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet, and the thought among the more positive thinkers was at least it happened in practice.
The race started off cleanly although Bourdais admitted he didn’t get the best start and dropped from 11th to 13th in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet. However, he settled in and maintained pace until the first round of stops. He pitted on lap 12 to change from the alternate tires to primaries. A slow stop cost him five positions and he returned to the race in 18th.
The first of four full course cautions came out on lap 16 for Jimmie Johnson’s off-track excursion. It was just after the restart that Bourdais reported a problem with the rear and he pitted on lap 19. The crew determined the camber shims fell out of the left rear. They fixed it and sent him off, but he lost a lap and was in 23rd position.
The only one faring worse was his teammate. Kellett also had a slow stop and then had an issue on his out-lap which forced him to limp back to the pits in second gear. The culprit was an overheated gear control unit. The team fixed that and sent him back out. However, another problem developed, and he was soon back in the pits. The team determined it could not be fixed, ending his race.
“Just a heartbreaking day for us at Road America,” said Kellett. “The car felt pretty good in traffic when we were running but right from the get-go we just ran into some issues. Had a bobble on that first stop and lost positions there.
"On the second stint, we ran into a shifting issue in the electronics control box that controls shifting. Seems we had a bit of an overheating problem and then it went into failsafe mode and we had to limp back to the pits. Changed the part and unclogged the duct that was causing the problem and then got running again. Then it sounds like we may have had a failure in the sensor that controls the engine so that was kind of the end of our day, but we’ll diagnose it and work through the problem and come back for Mid-Ohio.”
Meanwhile, Bourdais was able to get his lap back on lap 29 by passing Kevin Magnussen who was the only one on the lead lap that didn’t pit. A full course yellow came out on lap 35 for Magnussen who went off course. That was the lap Bourdais planned to duck into the pits for fuel and it forced Bourdais to pit for a splash in a closed pit. He then pitted again the next lap to change tires and take on a full load of fuel.
At that point, his team flirted with the idea of a fuel-saving race but determined they would have to save too much fuel and lose too much time to make that strategy work.
A flurry of pit stops by the field on laps 40 and 41, saw Bourdais register his fastest lap of the race as he tried to make up ground during the pit cycles. He made his final stop on lap 48 and took on used reds along with enough fuel to make it to the end of the 55-lap race. A full course yellow on lap 52 for Ed Jones’ spin when he suffered a suspension failure, provided the opportunity Bourdais needed to get out of his personal No Man’s Land. With the field tightened up, Bourdais took full advantage and climbed from 21st to 16th in two laps.
“Pretty eventful race here at Road America,” Bourdais stated. “Didn’t get the best of starts, lost a
couple of positions and unfortunately, we had a pretty poor pitstop on the first stop there and then cycled to the back. Then we lost the camber shims on the left rear so that unfortunately pretty much set the race in motion for us. After that, somehow all those yellows kind of got us back in the hunt, but we couldn’t do any better than p16 which is a pretty good recovery, all things considered.”
Alex Palou capitalized to snare the win when Josef Newgarden slowed with two laps to go with transmission woes. Finishing second through fifth were Colton Herta, Will Power, Scott Dixon and Romain Grosjean.
Bourdais discusses the race with (L to R) engineers Daniele Cucchiaroni and Justin Taylor, Foyt, and Technical Director Mike Colliver.
Foyt acknowledged the team’s misfortunes of late, saying, “We just can’t get off these tough weekends right now. We’re showing some decent pace but we’re not able to capitalize and get the results. We had electrical gremlins with the 4 car and it ended our day early. We’re trying to diagnose what happened there. The 14 car was really just getting its race started and we had a tough pitstop on the first stop. Then we lost some rear camber shims over some curbs which forced us to make a quick repair. The guys hung in there and Seb drove a hard race. We were able to get our lap back, and the yellow at the end caught us back up and we were able to pass some cars and finish 16th. Everybody’s got their head down, but we just have to get back and get this turned around.”
The NTT INDYCAR Series returns to action in two weeks at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Honda Indy 200 will be broadcast live Sunday, July 4th on NBC starting at 12 noon ET.