LEXINGTON, Ohio (July 4, 2021)—On a holiday known for fireworks, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio started off with a bang – a few of them actually — with two full course cautions coming within the space of the first four laps.
Starting 12th in the ROKiT Chevrolet, Sébastien Bourdais made it through the first melee which happened right in front of him as it involved fifth row mates (and teammates) James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Felix Rosenqvist also got involved. All three cars sustained varying degrees of damage.
Starting 21st, Dalton Kellett snaked through the mess with his K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet but did get hit from behind which damaged the undertray and affected the car’s handling.
The second caution came on the heels of the first and was triggered by fourth-running Will Power’s spin after being tagged by Scott Dixon. Bourdais, in 10th, had to skirt through the grass to avoid Power and was ninth by the time the dust settled. Kellett climbed from 21st to 16th.
The drivers settled down after that as those cautions turned out to be the only ones during the 80-lap race around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile circuit.
Three laps into green flag racing, Bourdais was slapped with a blocking penalty on lap 10 and told to give up two positions. It took two laps to comply as the team asked for clarification. That dropped him to 11th which is pretty much where he ran for the entire race.
For the final 15 laps of the race, he waged a tough battle with Takuma Sato who had the benefit of fresh Firestone alternate (red) tires, while Bourdais had to use lightly used reds, having used his second set in the second round of qualifying. Sato also had twice as much “Push-to-Pass” or overtake seconds left too, which made Bourdais’ fight even tougher.
Sato prevailed on the final lap to steal into the top-10 because seventh place Colton Herta had to duck into the pits for fuel on the penultimate lap. Bourdais finished 11th.
“Not an awesome day for the 14 ROKiT Chevrolet,” a disappointed Bourdais said afterwards. “It seemed like it might have been something to play for, but unfortunately got a penalty for blocking, which I’m not sure I agree with. That cost us two positions in a game of track position, so very difficult to make anything from there. Then we got caught up behind Jimmie (Johnson) for a long time and that cost us a lot of time.”
Post-race debrief with Justin Taylor, Larry Foyt and Bourdais.
“The last stint was pretty painful on the used reds so I finally had to give up against Takuma (Sato), but at least we got something out of it – eleventh place – not super exciting but better than nothing. Let’s move on to the next one,” Bourdais concluded.
Kellett on track before an SRO crowd. Note the U.S.A. and Canadian flags.
Kellett was running a steady race in 16th, having started on the alternate tires and dodging the cars in the cautions. He moved up to 11th as the pit stop cycle began. He pitted on lap 28 for the primary tires. Kellett explained that due to the first lap damage to the underwing resulting in a loss of some downforce, the car didn’t handle as well with the harder compound of the primary tires.
In the final stop he was able to get back on the alternate tires but by then he had slipped to 21st which is where he finished.
“First of all, Happy July 4th everyone!” exclaimed Kellett afterwards. “We just had Canada Day and now it’s July 4th so it’s a good fun weekend of celebrating and what better way to do it than being here at Mid-Ohio for race day? It was fun racing, a little bit of action off the start. I got tagged from behind and got a little bit of damage to the underwing, so we were kind of struggling a bit.”
JR Hildebrand has been working with Kellett and was spotting for the team today.
“It was okay on Firestone reds,” Kellett explained, adding, “but on blacks with that lack of the downforce and lack of grip on those harder tires, it kind of just really hurt our pace and that stint cycled us back. We were running on our own but with that pace we lost some spots that we had gained off the start so that was a little frustrating. When there’s a melee like that, sometimes you’re just lucky to get through and we just kind of squeaked through that one quite closely. Happy to get through that and be able finish the race and bring home a little bit of points. The stops were good, guys were good in pit lane so we’re happy that we had good performance in the pits with the K-Line Insulators No. 4 crew.
“We get to have a little bit of time off between now and our next race. We’ve got a test coming up at Gateway and then we’ll be on track in Nashville for the first time in the Music City Grand Prix, so that’s super exciting.”
Josef Newgarden won the race to bring home the first win of the season for Team Penske. Second through fifth were Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
The NTT INDYCAR Series will be taking an “Olympics break” as INDYCAR’s broadcast partner NBC televises the games across all their platforms. Drivers Bourdais and Kellett will enjoy time with their families in France and Florida respectively before heading to St. Louis to test at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) at the end of the month. The next race will be the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville on August 8th which will be broadcast on NBCSN starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.