PORTLAND, Ore. (Sept. 12, 2021)—To quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
When the Grand Prix of Portland slowed for a Turn 1 melee on the initial start which Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett navigated cleanly and found themselves in fifth and 13th respectively, things were looking pretty good for AJ Foyt Racing. Especially considering that from their original grid positions, Bourdais gained seven spots in the ROKiT Chevrolet and Kellett gained 11 spots in the K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.
However, the cautions — there were four for 20 laps–played havoc with the fuel strategies and turned the apparent negatives into positives with cars that were penalized in the beginning finishing on the podium in the end.
Alex Palou won the race after starting from the pole. However, he worked his way up from P17 because he missed the Turn 1 chicane on the start as did outside pole sitter Alexander Rossi who finished second after climbing back from 20th. Third place finisher Scott Dixon recovered from 18th in the same scenario. Rounding out the top five were Jack Harvey and Josef Newgarden.
Kellett’s race ended early when he had an issue with the fuel injection which was particularly disappointing since he was running 12th when the problem surfaced 50 laps into the 110-lap race. He placed 26th.
Kellett leads rookie Callum Ilott, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon before mechanical troubles sidelined him early.
“I’m so gutted for the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevy team,” said the 28-year-old Canadian. “We were having a great race going and got a little lucky off the start with that melee and the way that the order was reshuffled. Gained some good positions and was able to hold on and be competitive. The pace felt strong compared to where we were in qualifying, so really happy with that. It’s just a shame how this race ended early for us. Looks like we had an electrical issue. We haven’t diagnosed that yet, still waiting for the car to come back. We’ll figure out what it was and make sure it doesn’t happen again. This has been a tough weekend with it kind of being up and down for qualifying, things like that. The race performance, was happy with that. That’s a positive we have to take out of this weekend and just diagnose the mechanical issue and go from there.”
When Bourdais made his first stop from fifth, he dropped to 19th due to the different fuel strategies in play. However, it was thought he would still have a good shot if the race continued under green. The caution that really handicapped them was the one on lap 86 for the incident between teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power which resulted in Pagenaud getting an avoidable contact penalty. That caution allowed those who were saving fuel some breathing room as they would likely make it to the end.
The crew gave Bourdais solid stops but the cautions didn’t work in their favor today.
The fourth and final caution, resulting from Bourdais’s contact with Oliver Askew while trying to make a pass in Turn 2, sealed the deal for the fuel stretchers. Bourdais dropped from 16th to 20th. With 20 laps to go in the race, he passed two cars to finish 18th.
“Obviously a bit of a sore day here for us at Portland International Raceway,” Bourdais commented. “Man, it looked like it was going to be a great day and after avoiding the chaos at the start and getting the lucky break with the reordering and getting fifth out of that, it seemed like we were going to do really good. Unfortunately, we were on the three-stopper with Pato and Ericsson and those guys and the yellows fell at exactly the wrong time for the three-stoppers like us and at the perfect time for the guys that suffered at the beginning of the race on the two-stopper and we could never recover from that. On top of that, we got tangled with Oliver Askew – more of my fault than his fault – and we were fighting with Veekay, and he ended up just not quite giving me enough room to be able to make the lap. I was on the curb and just tapped the brakes when I saw him turn and just caught his left rear tire trying to get out of it. Just a shame we’re not getting much out of this weekend when we clearly had some pace, had a pretty decent qualifying and just a shame that we couldn’t transform the essay [a French rugby term meaning “convert the try” or score the goal] and we couldn’t get some good points again.”
The NTT INDYCAR Series heads to California this week for the Firestone Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca which will be broadcast live on NBC Sunday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. ET.