INDIANAPOLIS—Sebastien Bourdais returned to the cockpit of the No. 14 Sexton Companies Chevrolet for the first time since he tested for AJ Foyt Racing in February when the NTT INDYCAR Series returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course for this weekend’s INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR.

The car was sponsored for this weekend’s doubleheader by Indianapolis-based Sexton Companies, a leading privately owned apartment development and management company with communities in Indiana, Ohio, and Louisiana. Sexton Companies has been an associate sponsor of the team since 2015.

Prior to getting into the cockpit, Bourdais said it would be important to manage expectations about the remaining races in 2020 given the challenge of stepping into the cockpit so late in the season. However, he relishes the opportunity to get a jumpstart on the 2021 season. In practice he was 22nd, slightly behind teammates Charlie Kimball and Dalton Kellett, who had his best practice run of the season (17th).

In qualifying, Bourdais’s session was cut short by Takuma Sato spinning into a gravel trap which brought out the red flag with about five minutes remaining. Bourdais was eighth at the time, and had not had a chance to run the quicker Firestone alternate tires — which the team believed would have improved his time. He will start 16th after posting a time of 1 minute, 10.9588 seconds for a speed of 123.739mph. 

“A challenging day just like we expected, maybe a bit harder than I wished it would

 have been,” Bourdais said afterwards. “Happy to be back in the game and getting to work with the AJ Foyt Racing crew. It’s a pretty steep battle. We were trying to do the best we can; the first run on blacks was pretty reasonable. Had a massive lockup with the rear going into Turn 1, which fell a bit on me, but still managed a good fourth lap so that put us in the window in the top group. And then we never got a read on the reds which is good and bad because we just don’t know what the car’s going to feel like on the Firestone red tires. Good because we have two sets of brand new tires to go in the race. We’ll see how it checks out.”

Driving the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet, Charlie Kimball went out in the second group of cars in qualifying as did teammate Dalton Kellett in the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet. Their 12 minute session was run under entirely green flag conditions. 

Kimball will start 23rd after posting a lap of 1 minute, 10.7500 seconds at a speed of 124.105mph. Although quicker than the time set by Bourdais, Kimball will start behind him because the times are relative to the group in which they occur. Typically, the second group will post quicker times because the track is “rubbered in” providing more grip.

“It was just a really frustrating session for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevy,” Kimball said. “We had some really good pace, I think, earlier at times in practice, and even in qualifying, in similar laps to the competitors, we were a little more competitive in that fifth-sixth range or so. Overall, for me, on that last lap when everyone seemed to take a big step forward and we got stuck at a lap time, we need to figure out what’s going on with that because it seems to be a bit of a frustration we’ve had all year. I know these guys will be really good in pit lane on the pitstops tomorrow, that’s never a question in my mind. The A.J. Foyt crew works harder than anyone I’ve ever worked with, especially on the pit stops, so we’ll go forward in the race tomorrow and then re-evaluate what we need to do for qualifying on Saturday.”

Kellett will start 25th after posting his time of 1 minute, 11.7237 seconds and a speed of 122.420 mph. 

 “I don’t think we quite hit the nail on the head in qualifying,” said Kellett, adding, “just lacking a bit of rear stability, struggling a little bit and didn’t quite get everything out of the reds (Firestone tires). Unfortunate that we’re not starting further up the grid, but I think we definitely learned some stuff in practice and I think we’ve got a solid race car. We’ve consistently had better race pace than qualifying pace this year so we’ll be looking to make spots on track and in pit lane, make some smart moves, get some passes done early on. The No. 41 crew will be solid in pit lane so hopefully we can jump some spots and move up for the race. For Saturday’s qualifying we’ll be having a look at what Seb and Charlie were doing today and see if we can learn anything and if we can all get better as a team. I think there’s definitely some potential there so looking forward to seeing what we can learn.”

Scoring his first career pole, rookie Rinus Veekay will take the field to green after posting a time of 1 minute, 9.6903 seconds at a speed of 125.992mph. Second through fifth were Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Will Power and Marco Andretti.

Race 1 of the Harvest GP doubleheader will air tomorrow on the USA Network starting at 3:30 PM ET. Qualifying for Saturday’s race will be Saturday morning with the race being broadcast on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon.