By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
AVONDALE, Ariz. — So far, Sebastien Bourdais’ move back to Dale Coyne Racing has gone better than expected.
The four-time Indy car champion scored a come-from-behind win at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and followed that up with a second-place finish at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Combined with a steady drive to eighth place at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the four-time Indy car champion finds himself leading the points heading into tonight’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.
All things considered, the 38-year-old from Le Mans, France, feels that the team is figuring things out while still meshing together.
“It’s way above and beyond expectations as results are concerned and points and everything,” Bourdais said. “As far as pace, I wouldn’t say the same. I think we were quite competitive at St. Pete, we showed some pace in the race at Long Beach and we struggled all weekend at Barber.
“We are still a fairly new group, we’re testing a lot of things. We aren’t trying to get it wrong. We got the lucky breaks and we got a lot of things going our way and that was nice. There’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of luck on your side sometimes.”
While the driver of the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda has shown pace early on, he feels that they are in for a challenge tonight. He noted that the drag produced by the Honda road course/short oval aero kit puts them in for quite a challenge.
“We are in qualifying trim and we are two-tenths off,” Bourdais said before qualifying 10th for tonight’s race. “There is no surprise there. If we do a good job, we’ll be maybe P6, P7. In the race if you can stay there, that would be great.”
He also noted that while Honda has made much progress on the engine side, the short oval configuration provides a significant hurdle to overcome.
“The guys at Honda have done a really nice job on the engine which has closed the gap, but when you are pulling the anchor on the drag side, there’s nothing you can do.”
Although the pace on the short ovals has Bourdais worried, he is encouraged by Honda’s superspeedway performance and getting back to road racing at the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 13.
“I think we’ll be pretty strong on the superspeedways,” he said. “The Honda kit has shown some serious speed on the superspeedways. We’re starting to discover some things on the road course as well which will help us get better and hopefully the Indy Grand Prix will be good for us too.”
Dale Coyne Racing has been on the uptick this year with Bourdais and rookie teammate Ed Jones scoring five top 10s out of six possible attempts. Jones was hit by some debris at Barber and fell back to 16th while Bourdais finished eighth. Bourdais noted that Jones’ performance has been nice to see.
“He’s a very good and steady driver,” he said. “He doesn’t make any mistakes. He got screwed at Barber and got hit with debris from somebody else’s car so that was a shame. I think he’s doing everything and more than you could ask from a rookie in a small team.
“Hopefully we can keep giving him fast cars so he can show well.”