Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing still leading IndyCar standings after three races
The Verizon IndyCar Series rolled out of Alabama late Sunday afternoon with fully 17 percent of its season in the record books.
And the surprising line in those books, with three of 17 races completed, carries the name of point leader Sébastien Bourdais, who drives not for series kingpins Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing but instead for tiny Dale Coyne Racing.
Bourdais won the season-opener at St. Petersburg, an emotional victory for a hometown boy. It might have been expected that Bourdais would fade conveniently into the background and let the sport’s bigger names and more moneyed teams return to their expected spots, but such has not been the case.
Bourdais finished a strong second in Race Two at Long Beach, California, then had a steady eighth Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. It wasn’t a landmark day for Bourdais by any measure, but his three-race worksheet impresses.
“Everybody did a really good job; we had solid pit stops,” Bourdais said. “We didn’t have a great weekend at all. Performance-wise, we were average the whole time, and I was very unhappy with the car, so to salvage a top 10 and P8 like that in circumstances where there really wasn’t much going on, you have to feel pretty good about it.
“I think we learned a few things this weekend for the road course, which we haven’t had many opportunities this year with the testing restrictions, and it’s going to help us to get the car better for the rest of the season. So that was key to understanding what was doing what. I’m not sure we understand everything yet, but today was a pretty big step in validating some of the things we understood.”
Coyne has a solid (if underfunded) team, but few would have put one of his drivers atop the championship standings three months into the season.
“I’ll probably jinx it, but I’d really like to enter the month of May in the point lead,” said Coyne post-race Sunday. “We’ll have to see how we do at Phoenix.”
The April 29 race at Phoenix International Raceway is the fourth race of the season and the last before the circuit spends the month of May at Indianapolis.
Coyne said he had no serious thought of his team sitting atop the points three races in “or after the first or second,” he said. “So let’s see what happens from here.”
Bourdais started 12th Sunday after two days of tuning on the Honda.
“We learned a lot today,” Coyne said. “We never had the car right Friday or Saturday. We changed a bunch of stuff, and we were better in the race. I think we have a good direction on what we need to change.”