Bourdais dominates Milwaukee for 34th win
13 July 2015 – Sébastien Bourdias watched as nearly every other car pitted for new tyres during the race's final caution, but he quickly declined to join them. Clean air up front would be more important than new tyres, his team told him, but with 18 green flag laps remaining, it felt far from guaranteed.
Nonetheless, a challenge never came as the Frenchman led 118 laps total to win his 34th career IndyCar race, 2.2s ahead of Hélio Castroneves. The victory was his second at the Milwaukee Mile and second this year, and it was enough to tie him with Al Unser for seventh on the all-time IndyCar wins list.
His car had been consistently quick, and aside from the occasional weaving through traffic, he rarely had to deviate from his racing line or make any changes to the car. His pit strategy guaranteed that he was never panicked for fuel or tyres, either.
At one point, Bourdais had lapped the entire field with one pit stop remaining. The team opted to bring him in right away rather than risk losing out to a yellow, but he still exited the pits over a second ahead of the nearest car. In just three laps, that gap grew to five seconds.
But the key moment came when Justin Wilson's engine let go on Lap 222, bringing out the final caution of the race. Bourdias had just pitted for the final time and was guaranteed to make it to the end on fuel, but there were only 12 other cars on the lead lap, prompting many to pit for new tyres.
Leading the charge from pit lane was Castroneves, who had started dead last after missing his slot in the qualifying line. IndyCar forced him to start P24, but through good strategy and attrition in the rest of the field, he was already in the top 10 before half-distance.
On the final restart, he had to get by his team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, but even after clearing the Colombian he was unable to close the gap to Bourdias. Montoya, who also stayed out with the KV Racing driver on the final caution, finished fourth.
Graham Rahal, coming off a win in the last race at Fontana, charged up to third at the end, often going wheel-to-wheel with the likes of Montoya, Wilson and Dixon. His P3 finish elevates him to a tie with Castroneves for third in the championship and gives him crucial momentum heading into the final four races of the year.
Pole-sitter Josef Newgarden led 109 laps in the first half of the race, but he was nearly released from his pit stall directly into the path of a pitting car. He slammed on the brakes and lost four spots in the process. By then Bourdais had assumed the lead and was running away from the field. The American's late tyre switch helped, but he was still over 11 seconds behind P1 en route to his fifth top-five finish this year.
Hurting the most in this race was, perhaps, Will Power. He was running toward the front of the field when Ryan Briscoe spun out alongside of him. Power fruitlessly tried to accelerate away, as the two would make heavy contact before hitting the outside wall. Both drivers were fine, but Power lost his second place in the championship, falling below Dixon, Rahal and Castroneves.
Power was just one of many cars knocked out of this year's ABC Supply Wisconsin 250, as a third of the field had retired by the chequered flag. Most were mechanical, so there were only three caution periods, but Sage Karam owed his retirement to a brush of the wall while running in the top ten with roughly 70 laps remaining.
This allowed several drivers like Simon Pagenaud to climb through the field – the Penske driver finished P9 after starting seventeenth. Even Ed Carpenter, who consistently ran at the back of the field, managed to finish tenth despite being lapped by Newgarden nearly 30 laps into the event.
For Bourdais, though, he enjoys his second win of the year heading into the Iowa Corn Indy 300 – a race where his last two finishes have been P19 and P14. It's also a track where Ryan Hunter-Reay pitted late for new tyres last year and actually succeeded in chasing down the leader to steal a win.
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes next Saturday under the lights at the Iowa Speedway