It’s not an exaggeration to say the rain cost Sebastien Bourdais his second victory of 2018.
One a one-stop strategy, Bourdais was sitting pretty in the dry with about 25 minutes left in the two-hour time race. He was in second place and with leader Josef Newgarden facing his second pit stop under green, the four-time IndyCar champion was going to sweep into first place by about six seconds.
“I was saving fuel and tires and it was checkmate,” Bourdais said about an hour after the rain-delayed race had finished. “We had the perfect pace and strategy and [Newgarden] wasn’t going to beat us.
“But we can’t control the weather.”
A race that started in sunshine turned wet with about 20 minutes to go. A light rain turned into a hard one and that sent everybody scrambling into the pits.
Newgarden, who dominated the race from the pole and led 73 of 82 laps, came in for rain tires on Lap 71 and Seb took the point. It gave him a 13-second lead over the 2017 IndyCar champion and that’s when owner Dale Coyne started asking his driver to stay out and hang on.
“Dale is a gambler and he was going for the win because all we needed was one yellow, one guy to spin out and the race is going to end under caution because it was timed,” said Craig Hampson, the engineer who has meshed so well with the 39-year-old Frenchman in his American open-wheel career.
“Seb did all he could but when it started raining harder and harder, he had to come in and we waited three laps too long, It cost us second place for sure.”
A winner in the season opener at St. Petersburg, pole-sitter at Phoenix and the best reason to watch Long Beach when he charged up to second place before being hosed by an untimely caution flag, Bourdais finished fifth on Monday.
He’s still third in the Verizon point standings heading for Indianapolis but knows it could have been so much better.
“If it just doesn’t start raining so hard we’re in great shape,” he said. “But Dale is the boss and I owe him that [to take a gamble], it just didn’t work out today.”