WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — Sebastien Bourdais’ final 60-plus laps at the Milwaukee Mile offered reminders of his dominating Champ Car run a decade ago.
A rare victory at an oval could be just what the veteran needs to start a memorable run in IndyCar, too.
Bourdais pulled away following a late caution in the 250-lap race on Sunday for his second IndyCar victory of the season, turning aside a brief challenge from second-place finisher Helio Castroneves to win by 2.2 seconds.
“On these ovals, you can go from hero to zero and back to hero again,” Bourdais said. “When the car is right, it’s so, so special.”
It was Bourdais’ 34th career victory, tying him with Al Unser Jr. for seventh on the all-time list. His IndyCar career, though, hasn’t come close to reaching the heights of his Champ Car days, when he won four straight titles starting in 2004.
Bourdais then left American open-wheel racing for Formula One following his fourth title. He spent time in a variety of series before returning to IndyCar in 2011 for nine races with Dale Coyne Racing.
“When I came back, I did a lot of that because people just were expecting me to be Sebastien Bourdais from 2004 to 2007. It was just impossible,” said Bourdais, now a KVSH Racing driver.
“Now I kind of feel like we are running consistently at the front, we got a good thing going on,” he added. “I don’t need to do anything special to get good results.”
Other highlights and takeaways from Sunday’s race at the Mile:
BIG CHEESE: Bourdais was beaming after winning the trophy emblazoned with the words “Big Cheese.” It was his first victory at an oval since winning at Milwaukee in 2006.
An unusually tight schedule on Sunday, which included a morning practice and midday qualifying before the late-afternoon race, added a different wrinkle at the Mile.
It took a little while before Bourdais started feeling good about his car.
Then he started to dominate, taking over the lead for good on Lap 188.
“We could run the bottom and make moves in traffic that no one else was doing,” Bourdais said.
LATE CAUTION: Bourdais looked like he was on his way to a comfortable victory until the caution flag game out on Lap 222 when Justin Wilson’s car stalled.
The yellow flag gave others brief hope — before Bourdais pulled away again. He held on when racing resumed for an 18-lap sprint to the finish.
“Today we’re really starting to make progress at ovals,” Bourdais said.
MOVING UP: Castroneves came close to spoiling the fun with a remarkable run after starting last in the 24-car field. Graham Rahal was third.
“I didn’t know what position I was until Lap 200, I think,” Castroneves said. “I glanced and saw my number and thought ‘Oh, I guess I am doing well.'”
CLEANING UP: It was a relatively clean race — and far less stressful for drivers than the frantic, five-wide scrums two weeks ago at the superspeedway in Fontana. There were just three cautions on Sunday.
Bourdais led a race-high 118 laps. He had such a big cushion late that he kept the lead even after pitting on Lap 213.
ON POINTS: The victory allowed Bourdais to move up one spot to sixth in the driver standings. Points leader Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth but added to his lead over second place on the season leaderboard. He has a 54-point cushion after Sunday’s race.
Montoya’s teammate at Penske, Will Power, got knocked out in in the 131st lap after appearing to get clipped around Turn 4 by Ryan Briscoe’s spinning car. Briscoe, who started second, said traffic around the third turn took away his air.
Second in the standings behind Montoya coming in, Power dropped to fifth in the driver standings going into next week’s race at Iowa. The wreck left Power in 22nd place at the Mile.
It’s going to be more difficult for the defending series champion to repeat with four races left in the season.
“There is no question it is going to make it tough, but we will keep focused and go on to the next one,” Power said.
Scott Dixon moved up to second place. Rahal had another nice week at an oval after winning at Fontana and moved into a tie for third with Castroneves, another Penske driver.