MADISON, Ill. (Aug. 21) — Lady Luck smiled on AJ Foyt Racing…finally. The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway started off with fireworks Saturday night. The fireworks continued after the green flag dropped as close racing action resulted in six caution periods for a total of 49 laps.
Sebastien Bourdais led laps in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet before securing his second top-five finish of the season while Dalton Kellett ran in the top 10 with his No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet before posting his career best finish of 12th in the NTT INDYCAR Series.
“It feels great for the whole team,” said Team President Larry Foyt. “We really needed this. Just been down on our luck for the past couple months but everybody just kept their heads down. Even though we didn’t qualify great here, the strategy finally worked in our favor and we were able to get a top five with Seb and Dalton had a great race and just missed the top 10 and finished 12th. For the team it was just a really solid night and it gives us some nice momentum going into the west coast swing.”
Team owner A.J. Foyt watched the race from his Houston home and called to congratulate everyone on the season-best results.
But the day didn’t start off well. Kellett was the first out to qualify and posted a two-lap speed average of 174.803mph, netting him a 24th grid spot. Bourdais was the seventh driver to qualify and his speed of 176.878mph put him 19th on the grid but he would start 18th due to Alex Palou’s grid penalty for an unapproved engine change.
The race got off to a rough start with Ed Jones and Graham Rahal making contact in Turn 1 on lap 3 of the 260-lapper. On the lap 11 restart, Ed Carpenter punted Kellett into the grass but Kellett managed to get back on track without spinning out or hitting anything. Several laps later, Team Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden made contact resulting in Pagenaud pitting to repair his car’s front wing.
Bourdais dropped back on the start after contact with Tony Kanaan. He was behind Ed Carpenter who appeared to be struggling but Bourdais couldn’t pass him. Eventually Carpenter lost control and hit the Turn 4 wall bringing out the fourth caution; luckily Bourdais evaded the accident. He took the lead on lap 58 under caution.
The race restarted on lap 64 but by lap 65, the yellow flag flew again for a multi-car crash in Turn 1 which eliminated point leader Alex Palou, his teammate Scott Dixon and Rinus Veekay. Bourdais pitted and his alternate fuel strategy began coming into play.
The racers settled in for the next 100 laps and the next round of pit stops are made under green. The following pit cycle is also made under green by all except for Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Alexander Rossi hits the wall on the out-lap from his pit stop and it brings about a fortuitous caution.
Bourdais, slated to come in just when the yellow comes out on lap 201, is in the lead and must nurse his car around until the pits open on lap 203. He rejoined the field in fifth.
Bourdais paces the field on a restart.
Meanwhile Dalton Kellett was driving the best race of his IndyCar career. Working the leaders’ fuel strategy, he moved into the top 10 on lap 139 and into ninth on lap 166. He pitted on lap 177 and dropped back to 16th despite a solid stop…a function of the fuel strategy, not the stop. He was in P8 when the yellow came out on lap 201 but he still had to make a final stop, which he did on lap 207. He rejoined the field in 12th.
For the final 57 laps, Bourdais held off Sato who made several strong attempts to pass to no avail. Bourdais matched his season best finish of fifth, which he scored at the season opener at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. He would have won the Hard Charger award advancing 13 spots, had there been a Hard Charger award.
“Well pretty solid day for the ROKiT Chevrolet No. 14 here with AJ Foyt Racing,” said Bourdais. “Obviously World Wide Technology Raceway has been not a very happy place for me – didn’t finish a lap in 2019 and ended up in the fence. But tonight we got out a top 5 after a very hard fought race. The guys did a really good job in the pits and we didn’t make any mistakes on track, so really happy about the outcome from 18th, that’s a solid day, and looking forward to the end of the season.”
Bourdais interviews with Kevin Lee after the race.
Kellett posted his best finish of the season for 12th and held off Tony Kanaan to do so. He was second in the Hard Charger race moving ahead 12 spots from his starting grid spot.
“Great race for the No 4 K-Line Insulators USA Team Chevy,” said the visibly elated Canadian who celebrated his 28th birthday August 19th. “That was one of those days that keeps us coming back. We’ve had an up and down year, mostly on the downside but this is our best result of the season so far. Really happy with how the guys performed in pitlane, gave me great stops, making jumps in pitlane and making passes on track. Overall, really happy with how it shook out. It was a good race, the car’s balance felt really good. As the temperatures went down, it just felt more and more connected throughout the corner compared to earlier in the day when the temperatures were hotter. Long physical race, we had our work cut out for us, but we managed to execute on everything, just kept driving every lap and kept moving forward. We’ll take some of this momentum into the West Coast swing.”
Josef Newgarden won the race and was followed by Pato O’Ward, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin and Bourdais giving Team Chevy the top five finishing positions.
The series takes a two week break before returning to action at Portland International Raceway where the Grand Prix of Portland will be broadcast on NBC Sunday, Sept. 12 at 3pm ET.